Ombudsman says fight against GBV needs addressing structural causes.

Ombudsman Grace Malera has said the fight against gender based violence (GBV) can be achieved if root causes such as inequality between women and men is addressed.

She made the remarks on Saturday, when Just Associates Southern Africa in Malawi (JASS SNA) organised a Panel Discussion as part of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign on exploring structural violence, which is the violence, oppression, marginalisation and exclusion perpetrated against some people communities or a group of people)

Malera said even though there are several efforts in the fight against GBV there has been little effort in addressing structural violence and dealing with systems that fuel and reinforce GBV.

“GBV is highly prevalent no matter the amount of effort we have been putting in its fight. As we are addressing individual cases we need to look at issues that fuel GBV as root causes, issues of inequalities between women and men, the disempowerment of women socially, economically and politically.

Ombudsman Malera at the panel discussion

“When we have addressed the root causes we will uproot GBV from its very roots and we are going to see a transformative change that we want” she said.

The Ombudsman also observed that though the country is making strides in the fight against GBV at formal structure perspective such as progressive laws, there are a few gaps in the legal frameworks for dealing with gender based violence.

“We have strong structures in place, the gender based machinery and programming that is going on, however when one looks at all that is existing at the formal and the livid realities of women, we begin to see a very big disconnect that is where we need to be zeroing in, to make sure that what is contained in the laws and policies under the programming is actually making a difference in the women and girl’s lives,” Malera said.

She observed that most women who face GBV are powerless and do not report to relevant authorities, hence called for them to seek help and support from police and other organisations when they face such.

“As we are dealing with the causes, women should be empowered with information on how they can be empowered and deal with violence from their home and empower others,” she said.

Malera commended JASS, for empowering women using the feminist participatory research (FPAR) tool in addressing GBV.

“I commend JASS for helping women to be empowered economically. We have heard stories from women here who were stuck in oppressive relationships and marriages, but now they realise they can do things on their own without facing oppression,” she said

Just Associates Malawi Country Coordinator, Sibongile Singini said women experience structural violence differently to men because of how patriarchy system view women.

He said women are only viewed as carers of the young, old and sick resulting into higher levels of poverty, less secure and lower paid jobs, and having less opportunities than men.

“JASS is a feminist movement-strengthening organisation dedicated to amplifying the voice, visibility, and collective power of women, we work with women to ensure they are voicing out issues that are affecting them, so that they are free to transform changes they want, we are also strengthening their movements in different ways so that they are safe as they are doing their work at community level.

JASS Sibongile Singini

Singini said JASS SNA is also empowering women economically, by supporting 390 women affected by disasters in southern region with money to buy farm inputs to help them engage in winter farming to produce enough food and venture into business to sustain their farming.

“At JASS we believe as a woman you should be equipped with knowledge on how to deal with structural violence and we empower them economically, by supporting 0ver 300 women with funds so that they buy farm inputs to ensure they are food secure and that they engage into business with the surplus produce, she said.

“We implemented the Feminist Participatory Action Research (FPAR) in Malawi and Zimbabwe, which seek to strengthen women’s voice, power and safety to promote effective responses to structural violence, by supporting evidence-based understandings of the factors and drivers of gender-based violence,” she said

She said this year JASS Southern Africa (SNA) in Malawi marked the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign by hosting a panel discussion featuring women activists who engaged in the FPAR process in the country

The women shared insights and reflections on how women experience violence in their communities and discuss how women can organise and mobilise to address these challenges.

The panel discussion facilitated continued learning, sharing experiences and knowledge, networking and sharing of information on structural violence among other things

JASS SNA has also incorporated the Our Bodies, Our Lives (OBOL) women’s movement in Malawi that advocates for accountability and improved healthcare for women living with HIV.

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