Gender based Violence (GBV) is one driving force of HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide. In Malawi GBV cases, especially against women, dominate the headlines. This is due to ignorance on human rights and gender equality. It is evenly noted that lack of comprehensive knowledge on human rights makes many victims of GBV and sexual harassment unaware of any violation. In the same vein, the victims are not even aware of where to seek assistance from. Nonetheless, the fight against HIV and AIDS is contingent on understanding how gender and GBV increase the HIV risk of women, men and children.
Given this background, Art and Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo) engaged Secondary School teachers on human rights, GBV, and gender equality in a training workshop at Mawila Secondary school. The workshop, held from 3rd April to 4th April 2018, was organized under Make Art Stop Aids (MASA) programme and attracted 20 teachers from Mawila and Mbejere Secondary schools in Machinga district. This was against the background that teachers, who are the agents of change and custodians of knowledge, have the capacity to influence their learners in different crosscutting issues. In particular, emphasis was put on exposing various unnoticeable forms of human rights violations and sexual harassment; and how they exacerbate HIV/AIDS. After an insightful presentation, the teachers were tasked to identify cases of GBV in given newspapers and their respective communities. There was also a complementary participatory activity on understanding societal power struggles and forming positive relationships.
One of the teachers who participated explains how the intervention bridged the gap on human rights besides bringing to light the common gender based violence cases.
“It is today that I realized I had minimal awareness about human rights and gender based violence. I am a teacher and my students expect a lot from me in the classroom. I am also a Village Chairman. I hear many cases about GBV and sexual abuse in our community. At times we address some but we overlooked many abuse cases, especially between spouses. Initially I couldn’t understand that one can be raped by their marriage partner, for example. But today I have gathered the details. In addition, there is also verbal sexual harassment which I took for granted, especially from boys to girls. I really think every Malawian should be aware of these things. The most important thing is that we have learnt participatory approaches that we can use to sensitize students and the community at large”
Said McDonald Gusto, a teacher at Mbenjere Secondary School.