*From victim to survivor: Community based interventions protecting women and girls
New Light Children Organization (NELICO), a community-based organization in Mwanza, Geita region, has rescued and supported more than one hundred young mothers and vulnerable girls under 18 years from Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and early pregnancies.
The organization has also created awareness in communities on the risks of child labour in mining activities and has worked to enable children to go back to school.
NELICO Project Officer Lucy Thomas said that through funding from Foundation for civil society (FCS), their project intervention in Geita has helped decrease acts of gender-based violence such as early pregnancies and child labour in mining centres.
The organization worked with young mothers in groups, trained them on life skills, and capacitated them to conduct income-generating activities. Girls from each ward were also given education on life skills, reproductive health, and training on entrepreneurship.
“We realized that many girls thought that they couldn’t reach or achieve dreams and goals because of what they experienced as a result of GBV, but after training them, they now see themselves in a different light. They are now conducting small income-generating activities. Some of them have become ambassadors working with women and girls to protect them against GBV,” she said.
Six wards in Geita District reached.
NELICO engaged communities and the National Plan of Action to end Violence against Women and Children (NPA-VAWC) committees or MTAKUWWA community committees to prevent GBV in six wards in Geita district. NELICO capacitated leaders, communities, and MTAKUWWA committees on their roles and responsibilities to protect girls and women against GBV better through the project intervention.
Speaking on among the results of NELICO interventions, Lucy said that MTAKUWA committees at Luwenzela and Nkome wards rescued two girls who experienced violence from their relatives. The girls were freed and live better lives with their grandparents.
“There are some young mothers who were experiencing GBV, they had felt like they had nothing and were living miserable lives, but we have trained and capacitated them on how they can protect themselves against GBV, how they can live their lives despite the challenges they faced. They now own small income-generating activities,” she explained.
The young mothers who are survivors of GBV have become ambassadors. They are educating school girls and others on how to prevent themselves from violence.
The NELICO project intervention has increased reporting on GBV to MTAKUWA community committees for action.
Discussion on GBV among community members have also increased. Community members have also been made aware on help number that allows people or the victims to call or seek help.
Partnerships, collaborations between CSOs and GOVT
Geita District Social Welfare Officer Anderson Shimbi said that the district decided to form MTAKUWWA committee in all the 37 wards in the Geita district to prevent violence against women and children. Different partners, including NELICO, collaborated with the government to support the fight against GBV in developing MTAKUWWA committees. After training the committees and the general public at large, the district has registered many achievements.
“The general public is more aware of the effects of early pregnancies, forms of GBV, the causes, preventive measures, and are reporting these issue to responsible authorities.
He said that for the first quarter of the year 2020, community members reported 46 incidents where men wanted to marry young girls.
” There are many cover-ups of GBV incidents at family levels, making it challenging to fight GBV in communities. Some parents negotiate with perpetrators instead of reporting the case for legal actions. Some victims of GBV tend to be afraid of what would happen to them when they report GBV cases; hence they are silent and don’t report such cases. ” he said.
The FCS funded project has made the NELICO and government collaborate to reach vulnerable communities at the grassroots level and report GBV resolution by relevant authorities.
Acting district commissioner for Geita District Donald Nssoko said NELICO and FCS have been working very closely with the government in the campaign against GBV, women and children rights.
“NELICO has also been working to promote school attendance by working with children so that the latter can attend school to get a better education and build a better future. We have conducted many activities along NELICO, such as providing education to children in our education institutions,” Said Donald.
“The FCS has made great strides in fighting GBV and other human rights areas. The government is currently improving education in the district, such as constructing classrooms, desks, chairs, and tables,” he said.
*Inclusion of people with albinism towards achieving social development
Among the NELICO interventions’ beneficiaries is Leah Magesa from Katona street, Kangalala ward in the Geita region. She explained that NELICO conducted a nationwide human rights awareness campaigns with a specific focus on the rights of people with albinism, their inclusion and how communities can work towards an inclusive society.
“We have conducted several public meetings to raise awareness and discuss the issues with the community members in 50 wards in two district councils of Geita DC and Geita town council, Leah Magesa.
Leah said that during public meetings and awareness campaigns, people with albinism could tell their own stories and how the lack of inclusion affects their lives. They educated the public about the truth behind the deadly myths and how the protection of the people with albinism shows a community that values them. NELICO formed groups of people with albinism to provide them with life skills, economic empowerment and legal training.
“People with albinism are now aware and have been trained on self-reliance, the laws and regulations governing their rights and safety. They have also benefited from Community Health Fund (CHIF), and some of the children with albinism went back to school,” she explained.