Women Lawyers Association Malawi (WLA) has stepped on the disaster stage through conduction of legal clinics and donation of assorted relief items to women that have been devastated by Cyclone Freddy in Chiradzulu and Phalombe.
This follows rising reports of exploitation and abuse of displaced women and children. WLA observed that the emergence of Cyclone Freddy exacerbated violations of children’s and women’s rights.
WLA’s Chairperson, Counsel Chisomo Nyemba, said an Amnesty International report indicates that 38 percent of women living in camps during disasters experience some sort of sexual harassment.
WLA Chairperson Chisomo Nyemba handing over relief items to one of the beneficiaries
“Against this background, WLA engaged the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) to identify a target area to conduct legal clinics. These legal clinics will provide an opportunity for WLA to assess the scope of legal support needed for these vulnerable groups and educate them on their rights and the protection the law puts in place for them,” said Counsel Nyemba.
WLA visited and cheered up the survivors in Chiradzulu and Phalombe. The association also conducted legal clinics and donated relief items at the two locations starting with Chanza Full Primary School Camp in Nguludi, Chiradzulu and concluding the exercise at Minyenje Camp in Phalombe.
WLA also conducted legal clinic sessions
“We received financial and material assistance from members of the Women Lawyers Association, AFIDEP and GJU. We were also assisted with transportation by Rotary Clubs in Malawi and Landrovers Defenders Club.
“We made direct donations to over 400 women. The relief items include dignity kits as these are often forgotten in relief efforts although they are important for women to maintain their dignity. We also conducted sensitisation sessions where we briefed women about their human rights and that their rights must be respected even when disaster has stricken them. These include the right to dignity, health, equality, and association,” said Counsel Nyemba.
In her remarks, one of the beneficiaries thanked WLA for the legal information and donation, especially the dignity kits, saying that they haven’t received such and they had difficulties taking care of themselves.
She said, “Women staying here at the camp are grateful for what the women lawyers have done. We did not know some of the laws as we do not have access to lawyers. They have also enlightened us about deceased estates and our rights to inheritance in addition let me applaud them for considering giving us the dignity kits.”
WLA’s members cheered up the survivors
WLA said it has planned to engage DoDMA and the Presidential Taskforce in ensuring that the disaster response is gendered. WLA observed that currently there are gaps that are fuelling the risk of gender-based violence and human rights abuses toward women. WLA further noticed that anti-gender-based violence measures are inadequate.
WLA’s members who participated in the legal clinics and distribution of relief items include, Professor Ngeyi Kanyongolo, Kumvana Mtukule Pilirani Chuma, Sigele Chirwa, Sungeni Mtalimanja, Malchiel Chipingo, Prisca Masumba, Bernadette Mnyanga, Doreen Kawisa and Chisomo Nyemba.