Malawi and Eswatini’s Child Protection and Advocacy teams learn from each other
With World Vision International, being a global organisation, often takes advantage of its presence in different parts of the globe to share experiences and learnings from the vast expertise it has from different countries. It is in this vein that World Vision Eswatini (WVE) had the opportunity to host World Vision Malawi (WVM) for a learning visit on Child Protection from February 6-10, 2023.
The Malawian team included Justin Hamela (Director of Child Affairs in the Ministry of Gender); Alex Simenti (Malawi Police Service Commissioner – Community Policing Unit); Henry Machemba (NGO Coalition on Child Rights National Coordinator); Lizzie Lombe (WV Malawi’s Advocacy Manager); Georgina Kamanga (WV Malawi’s Sponsorship focal);Fyson Makina (WV Malawi’s Acting Communications Manager), and Charles Gwengwe (WV Malawi’s Advocacy, Communications and Justice for Children Director).
Supporting the set-up of child-friendly spaces is one of WV Malawi’s strategies to ensure the protection and support of children. In this regard, it has established 16 One-Stop Centres, as a rights-based, multi-pronged approach to ensuring the survival, development, participation, and protection of children. Eswatini, on the other hand, has also taken a very promising approach to child-friendly spaces, with some positive results and sustainability that the WV Malawi team was happy to learn from. WV Eswatini was also eager to exchange ideas and gain knowledge from WV Malawi through the cross-sharing process.
Sites visited include a child-friendly space at Hlathikhulu Police Station; two child-friendly courts, one at the Mbabane High Court and another at the Siteki Magistrate’s Court, as well as a child-friendly interview room at the Mbabane Magistrate’s Court. These child-friendly safe spaces are for children who come to report issues concerning violence, including sexual violence.
During the visit, the Siteki Magistrate gave the delegates a demonstration of how they use the child-friendly CCTV and audio equipment, donated by WV Eswatini, during court proceedings. This allows the child survivor to give their testimony without undergoing the secondary trauma of a face-to-face interaction with the perpetrator.
Speaking during the visit to the Hlathikhulu Police Station, Alex Simenti, Malawi’s Commissioner, Community Policing Unit said: “We are very impressed with this, and the fact that we have found survivors in session with the police means this safe space is indeed effective”.
Also visited by the delegation were the One-Stop Centres at Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital and the Mbabane Government Hospital. Malawian representatives also had a chance to have in-depth discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister's Office on challenges affecting children in the country and how they are handled.
“We have introduced the Child Protection Act and still pushing for legislation amendments to make sure that children are well protected. We have also strengthened relationships with other stakeholders, like the police, the judiciary and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including World Vision Eswatini, to make sure that children are well protected and safeguarded,” explained Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku.
The Malawian Community Police head expressed his admiration for Eswatini’s interventions aimed at preventing child intimidation while dispensing justice.
“This is one of the elements we will adopt when we return home,” he stated.
The Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act (SODV), enacted 2018, also piqued the interest of the Malawi delegates. In order to protect society's most vulnerable members, such as women and children, and put an end to impunity for offenders, the SODV has a section (Part V) that mandates stiff sentences for those found guilty, proportionate to the crimes they are found guilty of.
“I am actually very interested in this because, back home, we do not have such a legal instrument that addresses sexual offenses and domestic violence explicitly. This is definitely one of the issues we will advocate for when we get back home,” said WV Malawi’s Advocacy, Communications and Justice for Children Director Charles Gwengwe.