Spotlight Initiative – Ngokwe Case

by Amref Health Africa

Amref is implementing Spotlight initiative activities through UNFPA. This initiative seeks to eliminate SGBV and HP in Machinga through provision of services, providing psychosocial support and addressing harmful cultural and social norms, ending violence and creating economic empowerment of women and girls.

One of the key activities being implemented in all the 5 TAs is safe space mentorship. Through this a total of 74 AGYW were trained as mentors to conduct and manage safe space and mentorship sessions in the 5 TAs. The mentors managed to recruit 2042. Close to 1832 mentees are still patronising these safe spaces representing about 90% retained in safe spaces learning and getting empowered on prevention and elimination of harmful cultural practices and social norms that predispose AGYM to SGBV and harmful practices. Safe spaces aims at creating demand for service especially for the reported VAWG that the mentees report in the safe space. Currently the numbers of reported cases are minimal.

Ngokwe Group

Ngokwe is a community in traditional authority Liwonde. It is one of the 5 TAs that are targeted in the Spotlight initiative. The others are Chamba, Nyambi, Sitola and Kawinga. The last two are not yet initiated in the economic empowerment.  The team in Ngokwe managed to organise a small group of women and adolescents girls with their ages ranging from 18 to 24. All the women in the group are survivors of SGBV and that is the reason why they were identified for a training on economic empowerment and livelihood training for survivors.

Two of the women in Ngokwe group are fistula survivors who were treated and are fistula ambassadors to help other women to prevent and seek treatment care and support. The two are aged 18 and 22 respectively. The group has also four members who are from safe space mentorship as mentees.

Survivor Selection Criterion

The women were selected in order to be provided with seed fund for supporting their livelihood, economic empowerment as well as psychosocial support. ADC and CVSU in all the three TAs were engaged to identify the women who were later trained on business management. The grouping was selected based on the following:

  • Must include women who had suffered fistula before (This created an opportunity to empower fistula survivors economically and provide them with psychosocial support). This group at Ngokwe has 2 women who suffered and were treated for fistula.
  • Must prioritise SGBV or HP survivor with disability (By being disables is already vulnerable and the vulnerability doubles with SGBV or HP).
  • Must incorporate safe space mentees who disclosed their SGBV case in safe space and the case was referred or managed at CVSU (this empowers mentors to put VAWG on spotlight and encourage others to do so). At Ngokwe, there are 4 AGYW who are also mentees.

Rationale

The inclusion of these women and girls is deliberate criteria strengthens the notion of reporting SGBV which is not a common practice in the community and encouraged to realise the goal of putting SGBV on spotlight.

The selected women were trained in economic empowerment at CBCC near Ngokwe CVSU. The training was conducted with support from the District social welfare and community development. The trainers on the ground were the Community development Assistants (CDAs), and Child protection worker (CPWs).

Managing VAWG from Within

The group at Ngokwe identified a case of VAWG among themselves where one survivor was abused by her husband after the training. The man demanded all the money the wife received as lunch allowances during the three days training and there were reports of fighting for the same. The issue was reported by fellow group members during their meeting and the case was referred to CVSU where the husband was summoned for hearing and counselling.

The husband was called to appear at CVSU as part of managing and EVAWG. The man was counselled and will be followed to ensure that this should not happen again. The wife is now living happily and reported that they are living in harmony after resolving the matter at CVSU.

Co-opted at No Cost Extension

The group at Ngokwe has 15 women cum survivors doing Village bank. The female CPW and ADC Chair who is also a woman was co-opted in but was not a beneficiary of the seed fund. They have been an invaluable support to the survivors with their experience in psychosocial, business and as well as protection of the rights of women and girls in the area.

Now the group at Ngokwe has 15 members. Within a month, they have saved MK9000 as village banking savings. Once this funds grows to above MK25, 000, they will identify and provide the funds to another survivor using same criteria listed above; and this will continue until the group has 25 members. The initiative has started empowering women economically and hope to ensure lasting benefits.

Nature of businesses

The survivors were asked the nature of business they intend to be doing when provided with seed fund. It was observed that their businesses are almost a complement to each other as per business plan for survivors at Ngokwe. In general the women will indulge in small scale businesses because of the nature of the seed fund provided.

Unlike Nyambi and Chamba, Ngokwe focusses much on selling mandasi and all necessary associated supplies for same like flour, cooking oil etc. at a smaller scale. There are many survivors willing to join the group but the limitation are the funds. There are plans to have more members if the finance base increases.

Focussed Savings and Proliferation

Ngokwe as we speak has Village Saving Loan (VSL) shares of up to Mk9000 and an Emergency fund of MK900 accrued from the interests of KM100 each member is contributing. The grouping at Ngokwe are supported by the community structures. This ensures sustainability and support at higher level.

The inclusion of these women and girls is deliberate criteria and strengthens the notion of reporting SGBV n the community.

Conclusion

This case study outlines a unique community practise on management of funds and willingness to support fellow survivors of SGBV. It patently highlights the desire to stand up against violence among women and girls by ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to book. This upholds the power of unity for a common goal. Despite the funding being small, Ngokwe has exhibited a willingness to manage and do more for less under a common interest. Finally, the case also underscores the importance of capacity building to empower women to do more and be self-reliant.

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