The initiative will support targeted large-scale investments aimed at achieving significant impact in the lives of women and girls in six districts in the country.
The UN said in addition to enabling a holistic approach to end violence against women and girls, the initiative will promote Agenda 2030’s guiding principle of “leaving no one behind” and build on the momentum of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) efforts especially Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
"Critically, the initiative includes a comprehensive prevention strategy that addresses structural issues and linkages to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and HIV and AIDS," the statement said.
Malawi is among 13 countries globally and eight countries in Africa selected to receive part of the global grant of €500 million from the EU to implement the Spotlight Initiative. The other seven African countries are: Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe. In Malawi, the initiative will be implemented in Nkhata Bay, Mzimba, Ntchisi, Dowa, Machinga and Nsanje districts in phases. The first phase is for two years and a funding of €20 million has been granted.
At the first Spotlight Initiative National Steering Committee meeting in Lilongwe on Thursday, where officials from the UN, EU, Malawi Government, civil society and development partners discussed the programme, UN Resident Coordinator, Maria Jose Torres, said the initiative emanates from a strong global commitment between the EU and UN to make a positive difference in the lives of women and girls.
“Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread and devastating human rights violations globally,” said Torres. “With this initiative, Malawi can intensify efforts to eliminate this vice and improve the wellbeing of women and girls.”
Torres said Malawi was selected to be part of the new programme because of its achievements in establishing a strong legal framework for gender equality and existence of similar initiatives on which the country could build. She added the country cannot end violence against women and girls without a strong alliance involving local communities, government, civil society and development partners.
“Strengthening this alliance is the centrepiece of the Spotlight Initiative. For the initiative to be really transformative, it is paramount to establish strategic coordination of all initiatives working on elimination of violence against women and girls,” said Torres.
EU Ambassador to Malawi, Sandra Paesen, said the EU, UN and Malawi Government share similar values on gender equality and human rights, hence, the Spotlight Initiative will aim to lift up gender equality on the country’s development agenda. She said the Spotlight Initiative is an opportunity to be transformational in our approach to addressing SGBV and redefine the perception of women as victims.
“A very important milestone to realise sustainable development is collective local action to ensure gender equality by addressing negative stereotypes about gender roles and social norms that condone violence in society,” said Paesen. “A transformational approach will ensure that women are put first in all our efforts and decision making, and we further commit to full transparency of the Spotlight through regular publication of results and resources spent.”
With the advance funding for the Spotlight, Malawi engaged in early interventions focused on community outreach to initiate collaborative and inclusive national programmes. These early interventions included capacity building of service providers on integrated SGBV services and case referrals as well as the rehabilitation of two Community Victim Support Units in Mzimba and Ntchisi to ensure access to quality and survivor-centered services for victims of violence.
The Spotlight Initiative National Steering Committee is another early milestone in setting up the programme after the Civil Society National Reference Group to encourage systematic civil society engagement in the programme was established and wider consultations on the programme’s activities for 2019 was done.
Principal Secretary for Administration in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), Kiswell Dakamau, said the initiative is warmly welcomed as it will complement other initiatives that are being implemented by Government in the area of violence against women and girls in the country. He said the initiative is in line with the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III, which recognizes gender issues as critical to Malawi’s social development.
Dakamau said OPC will encourage all ministries, departments and agencies to embrace the initiative to ensure that nobody is left behind in the national development of the country. He added the support from the initiative will also help strengthen monitoring and evaluation on violence against women and girls in the targeted districts so that local governments can determine whether their interventions are successful.
“To achieve impact in the lives of women and girls in Malawi, District Councils have to first know where they stand on violence against women and girls,” said Dakamau. “This programme will help us with this component as well.”
Principal Secretary for Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Erica Maganga, said the Spotlight Initiative will trigger real transformation in the country to accelerate efforts towards elimination of violence against women and girls, including sexual gender-based violence.
As a flagship programme under UN Reform, which promotes coherence of the UN System, the Spotlight Initiative Malawi Country Programme will see four UN agencies, UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF and UNDP, working together towards a common goal, in partnership with the Government, the EU and Civil Society Organisations.
The programme is built around six inter-connected and mutually-reinforcing pillars focusing on laws and policies, institutions, prevention and social norms, services, data, and women’s rights movement – driving innovation and transformative programming to end violence.
Currently, there are more than 20 Agencies and specialised organisations of the United Nations active in Malawi which, through their work, contribute to ensuring a better life for the people of Malawi.