Symon Jonathan, a representative of Namikundi Church of Christ and a community leader, underwent training on SASA Faith Community Activists by the Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM) under its COVID-19 Response Mechanism project, funded by the Global Fund through ActionAid International Malawi. Following the training, Jonathan and other community and traditional leaders devised a plan to address gender-based violence prevalent in churches within Traditional Authority Mkhumba in Phalombe district. They discovered that women were being mistreated by their spouses, who falsely accused them of engaging in immoral activities when attending church events.
Jonathan explained, "Their men used to paint a negative picture on them that they were not going to attend church activities but to conduct prostitution. This left many women feeling violated and restricted in expressing their freedom. Men prioritized their own activities, denying women the same opportunities."
Moreover, parents discouraged their children from participating in church activities, including choir rehearsals. Some churches even rejected government-recommended COVID-19 vaccines.
"As a SASA Faith-trained team, we visited these churches, engaging with followers to inform them of reporting mechanisms for various forms of violence," added Jonathan.
The team advocated to men the importance of having faith in their wives, encouraging their involvement in family and community affairs.
This concerted effort resulted in a significant reduction of gender-based violence cases. Jonathan shared, "Namikundi Church of Christ used to face about 7 to 8 cases of gender-based violence. Now, we receive 1 or no cases at the church."
Women were also granted the freedom to participate in various gatherings, fostering increased social involvement. SASA Faith helped people recognize and address gender-based violence in churches that went unnoticed before.
Traditional Authority Mkhumba expressed appreciation for SASA Faith Community Activists training, highlighting its positive impact on women in her community. Women gained a voice in family discussions and began participating in budgeting, a role previously reserved for men. Mkhumba emphasized that men are now required to escort their pregnant wives to health centers for antenatal care services, with established bylaws enforcing compliance.
Additionally, SASA Faith Community Activists dismantled the practice of children being forced into farming instead of attending school. Now, children have the opportunity to pursue education even during the farming season, breaking the cycle of abuse and enhancing their academic performance.