Eye of the Child launch Campaign Against Child Sexual abuse In Malawi, cases of sexual abuse of children is on the rise, as seen in the alarming numbers of defilement, trafficked and forced prostitution of children and various forms of harmful cultural practices they endure and these continue to be reported in the media every day.
The sad stories of the plight of children continue to anger and cause great concern across the nation. Sexual exploitation can be defined as ‘“the involvement of a child in a sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society”.
It is sad that Malawian children who continue to face sexual exploitation are also at risk of STDs including HIV and AIDS. The UNICEF Malawi indicates that around 2.4 million children in Malawi are at risk of sexual and domestic violence. These statistics demonstrate that the problem of sexual exploitation of Children in Malawi needs urgent attention by all key stakeholders including members of the general public.
It is also sad that most perpetrators often include parents, family members, teachers, caretaker, and law enforcements authorities. Some children are particularly vulnerable because of gender, race, ethnic origin, disability or social status. And no family or child is immune, whether rich or poor.
Some children have defiled due to traditional healer’s advice to help a poor man gain wealth through magic. In some cases mothers agree with their husbands to let him have sex with her daughters instead of being engaged in extramarital affairs or in case where the wife is away from home for a long period.
Sometimes barren women allow their husbands to sleep with their step-daughters to ensure that there is a child in the family. In many communities, men have the right to exercise power over women and children, and sexual violence against children is part of that. Further, families are considered as private spheres and sexual violence against children in the homes are considered as private matters.
Limited economic opportunities and poverty especially in the rural areas fuel the rape and sexual violence against young children in a bid to obtain wealth and move out of poverty. This is also highly linked to traditional beliefs in rituals. In many areas of Malawi, children are considered as property of their parents. This kind of parent-child relationship makes it relatively easy for the parents or guardian to sexually abuse the child.
The Campaign against Sexual Abuse of Children is a call to action – for Malawi to stop all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse against children and take the necessary measures to ensure children are protected and their environments are safe for them to reach their full potential.
Goal and Objectives
- to draw much-needed attention to the hidden problem of child sexual abuse in Malawi and urge the government and people in positions of responsibility and care for children to fulfill their obligation to prevent and eliminate all forms of sexual abuse against children.
- Sensitize the general public on specific child sexual abuse issues namely
- Commercial Sexual exploitation, and
- Enhance collaboration among stakeholders in the campaign against child sexual abuse
- Sensitize public on the need to report child sexual abuse cases and where to report, linking with the work being done by police in the Victim Support Units
- Enhance and influence child policy development, legislation and service delivery
The campaign targets the entire country – ranging from ordinary people in the streets to policy makers. Three main levels of audiences have been identified for the campaign:
1. Policy makers – key policy makers starting with the Head of State, Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers, and Principle Secretaries, Directors for Government Ministries and Parastatals, Donor Group and Development Agencies involved in policy making will be targeted with key messages and call to action to ensure issues of children remain visible and inform policy decisions. The media will also play a key role in highlighting the issues of sexual abuse against children and what is being done to expose the ills, whilst demanding policy makers to take action to end the rampant cases of child sexual abuse.
2. Service delivery –education institutions, the police force, mini bus operators, health workers, child protection worker, Health Surveillance Assistants are among the service providers who will be sensitized on issues of sexual abuse of children, ranging from handling of abused victims, what to do, where to go, who to report to, how to protect the child etc
3. Community Members – apart from ordinary people in the communities, villages and homesteads, the campaign will also aim to reach the traditional authorities and leaders who have a lot of influence and power in communities to influence behavior change. The campaign will seek their support in bringing communities to understand the importance of protecting children, their support in implementing traditional and common laws that protect children from sexual abuse.
The Campaign will use the following strategy towards creating protective environment for children from sexual abuse in Malawi. The Campaign will advocate and support the creation of a protective environment for children in Malawi through the following strategies:
- Research on the situation of child sexual abuse in Malawi
- Advocate for reforms of laws and services
- Provision of legal services to atrisk and victims of sexual abuse
- Provision of rehabilitation services to victims
- Public awareness campaigns
- Promotion of children participation and awareness in child protection
- Provision of rapid response services for atrisk and victims
- Advocate for increased budget allocations for child protection services
- Advocate for law enforcement that prohibit children participation in bars
- Advocate for improve access to, and quality of essential services
- Enhance monitoring, reporting and oversight at all levels
– lobbying and sensitization sessions,
– TV and Radio panel discussions with public input
– Children’s parliament session with the main parliament
– National Launch of the campaign on June 16
– News paper adverts and op-eds will be published
– Training of service providers on handling cases of child sexual abuse and the availability of well trained police officers at victim support units at police stations
– Sensitization on care and support for child victims at health facilities
– Increase awareness, start dialogue and open discussions on how to Stop Child sexual Abuse in schools, families, communities
– Initiate awards to “safe schools” – for those schools that take initiatives to ensure their children are safe in and around schools
– Community dialogues on cultural issues
– Awareness on what to do, how to report, where to report
– Increase public demand for action to be taken by legislators to protect children
– Initiate open discussions on attitudes, customs and practices that are often used to justify violence and exploitation
– Increased sensitive reporting of cases of child sexual abuse
– Empowered to lobby for enactment of bill on castration of convict in parliament to stop child sexual abuse
– Follow-up on reported cases to keep pressure and report on prosecutions
– Empowered to report on measures/best practices/action being taken by communities to make their environment’s safe for children
– Be the “watchdog” and break the silence