Traditional and Religious leaders in Nsanje have admitted that they have not been active in addressing some cultural practices and values that are fueling gender based violence in the district.
Leaders speaking to Malawi News Agency (Mana) on the sidelines of a meeting aimed at mapping of harmful cultural practices and development of Action Plan convened by Women’s Legal Resources Centre (WOLREC) under European Union (EU) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) funded project called Gender Equity and Women Empowerment (GEWE) said most of the cultural practices in the district are hazardous since women and children are not attaining their birth rights.
Group Village Headman Tizola of Traditional Authority Chimombo said in his area, culture does not respect the rights of women as they are forced to do things against their will.
“Let me admit here that we have some cultural practices that are fueling gender based violence in my area as well as in the district. For instance; paying a bride price, this culture has been fueling early marriages in the area as guardians are tempted to marry off their children owing to such benefits,” he explained.
Kalibu Kwa Yesu Pastor, Kondwani Tembo underlined culture as a serious agent of gender based violence in the district and brings more challenges that need their involvement if they are to be halted.
“For instance marriage, culturally, people in Nsanje can afford to risk their lives for the sake of safeguarding their marriages. “More married women and children are subjected to so many forms of gender based violence which are not reported to relevant authorities for help or action. They prefer to remain silent after being abused for fear of losing their marriages,” said the Kalibu Kwa Yesu Pastor.
He said the knowledge given to them will help to fight culture that undermines women hence ending gender based violence in the district.
“It is high time we change our way of doing things. As traditional and religious leaders we need to advocate for change and make the district a place worth living.
“We have realized our responsibility in the fight against any cultural practice that contributes to gender based violence,” he charged.
District Coordinator for GEWE, Evance Mathewe said they have resorted to engage the traditional and religious leaders in the fight against harmful cultural practices as they are influential people in the society.
“We want traditional and religious leaders to form a network to monitor, share lessons and best practices in addressing socio cultural beliefs and practices in their respective areas,” Mathewe said.
Mathewe further admitted that in the past these leaders were not actively involved hence continued failure to address issues affecting women and girls in the district.
“We believe that the involvement of these leaders will end harmful cultural beliefs as they are considered to be the custodians of the culture,” he added.