How awareness on GBV empowered women in Kilwa

19Aug 2021
Beatrice Philemon
The Guardian
How awareness on GBV empowered women in Kilwa

ACTS of Gender Based Violence (GBV) which previously went unreported in Kilwa District, Lindi Region, are now recorded and culprits brought to book, thanks to a capacity building initiative which empowers women to stand up for their rights.

Pili Kuliwa (standing) secretary of Tumaini Jipya kwa Wanawake Kilwa (TUJIWAKI) explains how awareness on Gender Based Violence has empowered women and girls in Kilwa District, Lindi Region. Photo/Beatrice Philemon.

Kilwa Local Rights Programme funded by ActionAid Kilwa has since 2017 been creating awareness on GBV in its various forms and how to report the same to authorities such as police, land councils, social welfare officers and courts.

Beneficiaries have since opened 14 platforms for creating awareness and so far 2,500 victims of GBV have been trained as trainers. Also, through other channels such as phone calls, community radio stations, farmers’ exhibitions and village meetings, the initiative has reached over 10,000 beneficiaries.

Speaking during a recent field visit, Pili Kuliwa who is secretary of the organization formed by beneficiaries named Tumaini Jipya kwa Wanawake Kilwa (TUJIWAKI)—New Hope for Women in Kilwa, said the initiative has changed the position of women in the district for the better.

“One thing we are proud of is the fact that women can now stand up and defend their rights; this is in sharp contrast with the past when acts of GBV were largely swept under the rug,” she said

TUJIWAKI was officially established in 2017 and so far it has 520 members in 14 wards of Kilwa District.

The programme as an eye-opener to women and girls because are now aware of GBV related challenges, the effect it has for them and how to demand their rights something that was not there before.

According to Kuliwa, some of the achievements of TUJIWAKI include the stories of two women who were divorce who were kicked out of their marital homes after divorce with husbands retaining everything. The organization managed to help them negotiate divorce settlement which they used to start new life.

“We have so far rescued five underage girls from early marriage and took them back to school and they are all doing very well,” she said.

Also, TUJIWAKI has also managed to secure child support for four children who were abandoned by their fathers after divorce. They are now getting monthly maintenance allowance from their fathers, she said.

The organization also helped victims take to courts four men who were suspected to have impregnated schoolgirls. After their arrest and arraignment, all were convicted and three jailed for 30 years and another for 60 years.

“We are very happy with the outcome of the four cases; as a result of the convictions, cases of teenage pregnancy and early marriage have begun to decline,” Kuliwa said.

“It is now a common practice in Kilwa District for authorities officiating marriage including religious leaders to demand birth certificate from those seeking to tie the knot; this is a milestone achievement.”

Because of the initiative, Kuliwa says women in Kilwa are now more engaged in socioeconomic activities such as farming as means of income generation and food vending than before.

With income from these ventures going directly into their wallets, women now have more decision-making power on issues such as expenditure hence healthier families because of improved nutrition.

With a donation of 83mn/- from ActionAid Kilwa, TUJIWAKI is now building its own offices at Kilwa Masoko from which it will plan and monitor  implementation of its projects in eight villages in Kilwa District, said Kuliwa.

Highlighting trends on teenage pregnancy and early marriages in both primary and secondary schools, she quoted official reports showing that in 2019, a total of 160 students were impregnated in Lindi Region.

In 2020, some 75 students were impregnated in Kilwa District and between January and March this year, a total of 40 students were impregnated, according to reports from police gender desk and social welfare department that were submitted to TUJIWAKI recently.

Although the numbers appear small, she said the real problem could be bigger because “we don’t have enough resources to reach all villages and create awareness because for far we depend on only one donor namely ActionAid Kilwa,” she said.

Officer Commanding Kilwa Police Station Anna Tembo said GBV is very high in the district, attributing the situation to poor parental care and traditional initiation ceremonies that prepare young girls to be wives at a time when they are supposed to be in school.

In a bid to reverse GBV trends, Kilwa Police Station has embarked on a new programme aimed at sensitizing students on GBV in schools so that they report the incidents to authorities at the right time for action to be taken..

“To start with, we have already visited five primary and secondary schools that are Kilwa Masoko Primary school, Mnazi mmoja Primary School, Kilwa day Secondary School, Kwa Sultan Primary and secondary school and Kilwa Masoko Primary School to create awareness and so far we have reached a total of 1,079,” the OCS said.

Zuhura Kiulanga, one of the beneficiaries from Njenga village said she is very happy to get education on GBV, saying that things have changed for the better since women and girls are now free to speak before men and successfully fight for their rights something which was not the case in the past.

“I can now speak out when my right rights or rights of other women are violated; I managed to assist my friend to get her land back on which she has built a house and that makes me very happy,” she said.