As one way of reducing sexual violence in Malawi, an African organization called Ujamaa Pamodzi Africa, a Swahili word which means togetherness, has reached out to 260 primary and secondary schools with skills training on how students can defend themselves against sexual assaults.
Ujamaa Pamodzi Africa is running Defensive Training Programs in Machinga, Mangochi, Nkhata Bay, Dedza, Salima, Lilongwe, and Mzimba.
Simangaliso Domoya, Project Coordinator of the organization, said the project started in Kenya, and came to Malawi in 2014 with the aim of protecting adolescents against sexual assaults and gender-based violence (GBV).
Domoya said her organization is working in collaboration with UNICEF, Plan Malawi, and Action Aid in the seven districts.
“We provide programs which help to equip adolescents with skills to protect themselves; we have three programs, which are: Empower defense for girls, boys transformation, and Sexual Assault Survivors Anonymous (SASA) support program,” said Domoya.
The Coordinator added that although policies of protecting children and adolescents are there, sexual violence remains a prevalent threat to health, economic, and education development of the country, and that is why the organization thought of establishing programs to protect young boys and girls.
Speaking on the same issue, one of the beneficiaries, Charity (not her real name), said she has benefited a lot from the programs, and will also impart the knowledge to her friends, who are not in the program.
“Boys were taking advantage of us, thinking that girls are weak-minded and they can do anything they want to us. Now with the skills we have learnt from Ujamaa Pamodzi Africa, we can now defend ourselves,” she said.
According to a 2013 survey by the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, one in every five women experienced some form of sexual abuse prior to the age of 18, perpetrated by boyfriends, acquaintances and classmates.