On July 9th FAWEMA (the Forum for African Women Educationalists in Malawi) launched an innovative child protection SMS Program at Mwatibu Primary School in Nathenje zone, Lilongwe rural east, Malawi. The program, developed together with TTC and IICD (International Institute for Communication and Development), aims to eliminate different forms of child abuse, such as early child marriages, child labor, sexual harassment and severe punishments by teachers. 

How it works

The SMS program that will contribute to a safer environment for the children in the areas of Nkhoma and Mwatibu includes different components. After opting-in by sending ‘FAWEMA’ to short code 55111 the participants will be enrolled into a survey about different types of child abuse, followed by awareness raising and sensitization messages on the topic, concluded by another round of survey questions. In this way information and awareness is spread, while the impact of the program can be grasped. In the near future it will also be possible to use the toll free line to report incidents of child abuse. FAWEMA will follow up the reported cases and link up with the appropriate authorities such as the Victim Support Unit and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare.

The launch

The project is funded by the Dutch consortium Connect 4 Change, working together to accelerate the development of people in developing countries by using Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Judith Schoot Uiterkamp, country manager for the International Institute of Communication and Development (IICD) represented the consortium at the launch. She gave an overview and background of the program. Other speakers who underlined the importance of the program to combat child abuse were representatives of the district Chiefs, Mother Groups, Head Teachers and learners. Especially the words of one of the children from the area made an impact and showed the gravity of the problem. In addition, the interactive program was successfully tested on the spot. TTC and the local aggregator MobTech ensured that the interactive program is toll free for the end users who use Airtel Malawi and TNM lines.

Involving relevant stakeholders

Schoot Uiterkamp looks back on a promising launch: “To make the project a success it is very important to involve the most relevant stakeholders in the community, like the mother groups who have a monitoring position. It was great to kick start the project with all these stakeholders together, and to test the short code at the spot. With the commitment of the community and an ICT solution that includes the use of SMS and radio, we hope that the program will quickly reach the community to help address these issues.”

The photo credits are for Judith Schoot Uiterkamp.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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