Minister of Gender Social Welfare and Community Development, Patricia Kaliati says eastern region districts of Malawi are still the hotspots of Gender Based Violence cases despite efforts stakeholders are making to address the situation.

She made the observation on Friday when she monitored Society of Women and Aids in Malawi (SWAM) projects at Ntanja Trading Center in Machinga.

The minister was accompanied by the Irish Ambassador to Malawi, Seamus OGrady to the project site to understand stakeholders’ role, successes and challenges in the fight to end violence against women and girls.

Kaliati said more cases of child marriage and early pregnancies were registered in the eastern region districts of Machinga, Zomba and Mangochi during the closure of school due to Covid-19 pandemic.

“We registered a lot of marriages and early pregnance cases in the eastern region particularly Machinga, Mangochi and Zomba and these are the hotspot districts of Gender Based Violence cases in the country,” she added.

“With the effects of Covid-19 especially during closure of school more women and girls in these districts were subjected to violence,” the minister observed.

She however, appreciated the good work SWAM is doing in eliminating GBV cases in the four Traditional Authorities of Kawinga, Kapoloma, Nkula and Chikweo.

“The project which SWAM and Ujamaa are doing in empowering women and girls economically are very paramount because most women who are victimised are those with less economic muscle,” the minister added.

The minister said in the next five to ten years the country’s poor record of GBV cases will tremendously improve saying a lot is being done to eradicate the effects of child marriage and early pregnancies.

She added that her ministry has put in place programs and policies that deal with mindset change of the young generation on equality between men and women.

She also thanked the Irish Government for the financial support to local organisations such as SWAM to compliment in the fight against GBV in the country.

The Irish ambassador disclosed that for the next two years the Irish Government will continue financing local organisations in the fight against GBV in Malawi.

“We are committed to seeing local organisations supporting the communities to know and understand the negative impact these GBV cases are having on, not only women and girls, but also the entire community,” he said.

OGrady said GBV issues are global problems which may take long time to be completely addressed.

He said he was very much impressed to see how community members are participating in ending GBV through religious, education and community based structures.

SWAM District Manager, George Makwera said his organisation is implementing the project in Machinga after observing that there were many cases in the district.

“Our assessment in 2016 showed that the figures of child marriages and teen pregnancies were just very high,” he added.

Through the project, Makwera said the organisation has civic educated communities on how power relations between men and women fuels the spread of GBV in communities.

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