By Madalitso Kateta – MEC Stringer
The Malawi Network of AIDS Service Orgnisations (MANASO) says women in the country are suffering from all forms of violence targeted because of cultural practices that discriminate against women.
MANASO has since said it is sad that the developments are happening at a time the government has made huge investiments in the gender equality drive.
Grace Massah, Programmes Officer at MANASO recently made the remarks in Mulanje during a briefing session of the three year Tikhale Tcheru project which the orgnisation is implementing in three districts of Mulanje, Karonga and Salima with financial support from UN Women.
“The project is a community transformation initiative where communities will look at and address cultures that perpetuate violence against women, when we are silent on traditions that drive violence against women then we are not going to end the gender based violence that women are suffering,” said Massah.
She said as a result of some rooted cultural norms, young girls were being married off to men that were very old a development that exposed them to the risk of HIV.
“We were recently in Karonga where arranged marriages are still a cultural norm, but when we asked participants to the meetings of their knowledge on the practice they all expressed ignorance of the
existence of such marriages while their chiefs accepted that some parents were still practicing the culture of arranged marriages,” said Massah adding, “research shows that a lot of violence targeted at
women is happening in our areas and sadly this violence is driven by our cultural values”.
Mulanje district is one of the districts having a high rate in child marriages, and according to Paul Magulula chairperson of MANASO funded Community Based Orgnisations (CBOs) in Mulanje the Tikhale Tcheru project will assist in addressing these child marriage problems.
“As a district we have been trying to track underage girls that go into marriage either because of poverty in their homes or merely due to the peer pressure to get into marriage which some traditions
promote and we believe that this project will push the work we have already been doing,” said Magulula.
MANASO started its operations in 1996 at the peak of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, and currently the network has over 1000 member CBOs across the country.
Meanwhile, according to Massah, the orgnisation has shifted its focus from HIV and AIDS to other human rights issues following the rollout of a national Anti-retroviral medication programme that made HIV and AIDS lose its serious public health concern status.
“HIV and AIDS are no longer that serious public health concern the seasons of HIV and AIDS have changed and we are now focusing on violence and other rights abuses that could drive new infections,”