School Clubs empower children against GBV in Arusha


14thFeb


School Clubs empower children against GBV in Arusha

The Centre for Women and Children Development (CWCD) is implementing a two year project called Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence. This project is funded by Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) under the Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) cluster and it targets ten Wards of Arusha District, in northern Tanzania.

 

The project aims at creating awareness and address increased forms of gender based violence (GBV) towards Maasai women and children. These include child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), lack of land and property ownership and lack of recognition of women and girls rights.

 

Project Interventions

To address GBV challenges in the society, three levels of intervention were deployed to address the situation in existing community structures. These include through empowerment of women, children, traditional and government leaders.

 

GBV Clubs were created in thirty seven (37) Primary and Secondary schools to create awareness and address the problem at school level. Students were taught on identification of all forms of GBV, how to report them and other violence incidents, necessary life skills, personal goal setting as well as matters of health and hygiene. This was meant to empower the girl child with self-confidence to discover their potential, understand their rights and self-worth, articulate their lives and set goals to prepare them for the future. The training program was also meant to provide a safe zone to protect girls and others against all forms of GBV in their community.

 

Women forums were established by ten founding women from each Ward with the same mandate as GBV Clubs at schools. Additionally, social economic empowerment initiatives were introduced for these forums to empower women to become economically self-reliant and improve their livelihoods. They included training on entrepreneurship, community income generation and livelihood improvement.

 

Also, in order to spread the message within the community and beyond, Community GBV Women Ambassadors were identified and became role models, peer trainers to advocate against GBV in their respective localities.

 

Community Impact

The government through the Ministry of Health, Community Development and Gender has been driving a strong agenda on fight against all forms of violence against women and girls. All ministry officials from the Minister, the Deputy Minister and all senior and junior officials have been spreading this message in all development collaborations and partnerships with the civil society as well as development partners. This gives impetus to efforts to curb all forms of violence at district and regional levels around the country.

 

“The message is very clear and we carry that message to every community we work in. Even the children spoke against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and its impact during the Day of the African Child before the Deputy Minister, to which we thank the Ministry for coming up with recommendations and a strong statement against all forms of violence to women and girls” says Hindu Mbwedu, Executive Director of the Center for Women and Children Development.

 

She added that now even Medical Officers are concerned about the welfare of children and nowadays they take action against parents and anyone who have committed FGM to their children. “The training we implemented in the ten Wards of Arusha are a foundation which the nation needs in all regions to fight against FGM. We believe that a systemic effort to create nationwide awareness and training will one day eradicate the problem of FGM, GBV and all forms of harmful practices against women and girls” she adds.

 

During the Day of the African Child celebration, the government pledged to address the issues of delays in delivering justice for cases of violence and abuse towards women and girls. This followed children’s outcry during the celebration which was delivered through songs and poems demanding justice.

 

The government also promised to regularly organise national dialogues to discuss all forms of harmful traditional practices including child marriage, FGM, GBV, rape and other forms of violence against women and children. This is aimed at creating nationwide awareness and form national strategy to address the problems.

 

Furthermore, the District Officials in Arusha called on the regional administration to facilitate a scale up for the project to spread in other Wards where CWCD did not reach. They also called on all municipalities to set budgets in their localities for child protection initiatives.

 

GBV Ambassadors

Following training which equipped them with knowledge on GBV and how to take action through existing systems, GBV Ambassadors were able to rescue forty (40) primary school drop outs from Musa Ward and returned them to school. This was achieved through community campaigns that reached problem households.

 

In Kisongo Ward, another Community Ambassador identified a GBV threat and took action to rescue six girls from forced marriage. This involved engaging the children parents and guardians as well as involving community leaders and local government officials. Other ten children in Makebes Ward were rescued from forced labour of herding cattle and selling plastic bags. They were all returned to school.

 

Community GBV Ambassadors were empowered to work with local government, schools and village on a community awareness campaign that involved erecting posters in Mwandet Ward with messaging against GBV – “Niaache nisome sitaki ndoa za utotoni’” (Let me study, I don’t want child marriage). This campaign created needed awareness throughout the community and engaged all citizens who could read to get the project message.

 

Community Ambassadors now visit schools and households to engage with parents, teachers, village leaders as well as local government leaders. They create awareness and follow up on issues of protecting women and children. They follow up on School GBV Clubs and talk with children about GBV and other forms of violence including corporal punishment both at home and school. This has created a community buy in for the project, and is an indication of the community acceptance, ownership and support to the project.

 

School GBV Clubs

The most outstanding impact of the project was that resulted from GBV Clubs in Primary schools. In these, members have undergone through a remarkable journey of completely transformation from being vulnerable victims to community champions and voices to reckon with. The once timid and shy Maasai girls; victims to child marriage, forced labour and FGM have become so bold, vocal and courageous that their parents fear them to the extent of letting them get away without undergoing FGM and marrying them off while young. Through their courageous voices they fear that the government will hear of these harmful practices and hence action will be taken.

 

The GBV Clubs narration is one of the most successful stories for this project. They have metamorphosed and graduated into girls’ and women’s forums where GBV ambassadors meet, discuss and exchange courageous voices to act against all forms of GBV and other harmful practices.

 

In Enjoro Primary School in Oljoro Ward, these community efforts collaborated with the government officials at district and regional levels from Education and Social Welfare departments as well as the Police and managed to rescue sixteen girls from forced marriages and apprehended eleven people involved in the practices, including the Village Chairman, whose daughter was among the victims.

 

To send a strong message to the community, the school GBV Club caretaking teacher who reported the incidents was promoted to Head Teacher while the head teacher who turned a blind eye on the cases was demoted to become a normal teacher.

 

Following the success of these School GBV Clubs, the district Education Office took initiative to encourage other twenty seven (27) Wards in Arusha Municipality to start similar child rights clubs (CRCs) in their schools after realising the impact of such clubs.

 

Similar cases of courage were recorded in Engalaoni Primary School in Mwandet Ward, where members of GBV Club were involved in the rescue of their counterparts. Cases were reported, girls were rescued and perpetrators taken to court.

 

Apart from transforming their lives and their peers through GBV knowledge, school GBV Clubs also introduced model farms where members learn vegetable farming and other life skills to replicate at their homes. This is aimed at income generation for poor households.

 

Decrease in Cases

According to monitoring and evaluation figures from CWCD, there is a notable decrease of GBV incidences attributed to the influence the project has had in the communities it is implemented. This has contributed to positive change through support and collaboration from local government authorities, community GBV Ambassadors and GBV School Clubs.

 

Numbers of child marriages and potential cases

Category of incidents 2017 2018
Dowry paid, girls awaiting marriage 183 10
Children married off 15 6
TOTAL 198 16

 

Following the training and community awareness efforts, more cooperation was reported between various government departments at district levels connected to children welfare. These include Livestock and Education Committees, which were tasked with making sure that no school going children should be found herding cattle instead of attending school.

 

Also as a result, communities have become empowered and can now handle GBV issues at grassroots levels on their own because they understand the concept, impact and how to report cases to authorities.