GEWE eliminates harmful cultural practice in Salima as the Queen of Toro Kingdom from Uganda visits the area

23 June 2015
Queen mother of the Toro kingdom, Uganda

Lilongwe (Malawi) - In the Traditional Authority Mwanza in Salima district, the community through the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, GEWE, programme has managed to eliminate one of the harmful cultural practices that was believed to have contributed towards the spread of HIV and other STIs and school dropouts amongst young girls. "We used to have a cultural practice where a mask dancer known as Namkwanya would be assigned to sexually cleanse young girls that have just been initiated with an aim of preparing them on handling men during sex when they leave the initiation place. This musk dancer would have sex with all the young girls", said group village headman Mwanza. With GEWE activities implemented by Malawi Interfaith Aids association, MIAA in this area, they have managed to eliminate this harmful cultural practice and the girls are now safer than before

 This success story was revealed when the community hosted the Queen Mother K. Olimi of the Toro Kingdom in Uganda who visited Malawi to learn and advocate for girl child education as well a campaign to eliminate harmful cultural practices. The Queen Mother has been instrumental in her own country in advocating for elimination of harmful cultural practices that predispose young girls to HIV and perpetuating school dropout. Through her extensive advocacy campaign, she has been elected as the Head of the African Queens and Women Cultural Leaders Network (AQWCLN). "As Head of the African Queens and Women Cultural Leaders Network, my desire is to see a unified, peaceful, prosperous and dignified Africa where women and girls enjoy their full range of social, economic, political and cultural rights, especially their sexual and reproductive rights; where men and women have equal access to opportunities with traditional and cultural institutions playing a leading role in development", she said.

The Gewe programme funded by European Union through UNFPA is currently being implemented in thirteen districts of Malawi. UNFPA Representative, Violet Kakyomya was impressed with the progress made in fulfilling the mandate and principles that UNFPA stands for through the GEWE interventions. She said, "adolescent girls should live free of violence and discrimination guided by the international human rights to which every human being is rightfully entitled and every girl, no matter where she is born, should have a chance to reach her potential".