Dutch embassy in Mozambique supports fight against gender-based violence

The global Orange the World campaign raises awareness of violence against women and girls. The campaign takes place each year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. The Dutch embassy in Mozambique supports local projects in the fight against gender-based violence. Isabel Prostamo and Délcio Brandão Mbota talk about their PEACE project that has already reached 500 girls.

‘PEACE (Projecto de Engajamento Activo para a Cidadania e Empoderamento da Mulher) is a collaborative project between local organisations,’ says Isabel Prostamo of MULEIDE (Mulher Lei e Desenvolvimento). ‘In collaboration with Délcio Brandão Mbota from OACDS (Organização para Ação Comunitária e Desenvolvimento Sustentável), we’re implementing this project in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. In August we started with a focus group of 1,500 women and 500 girls. We’ve already been able to reach the group of 500 girls.’

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Délcio Brandão Mbota & Isabel Prostamo

Dutch embassy: IGUAL programme

The Dutch embassy in Maputo has been funding 16 local organisations, including MULEIDE and OACDS, through the IGUAL programme (‘igual’ means ‘equal’ in Portuguese) since 2021. With a total of eight projects, these organisations are fighting gender-based violence in the East African country. This includes not just violence against women and girls, but also violence against people from the LGBTI+ community. The programme is implemented by local civil society organisation CESC (Centro de Aprendizagem e Capacitação da Sociedade Civil) and will run until 2025.

Orange the World and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

One in three women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence at some point in their life. The global campaign Orange the World raises awareness of the fight against this violence. Every year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (BZ) takes part in this international UN campaign to raise awareness of the need to end violence against women and girls. Protection from physical, sexual and gender-based violence is an important policy priority. BZ is committed to women’s rights and gender equality worldwide, and the Netherlands has the largest women’s rights fund in the world. IGUAL is one example of the global programmes BZ supports to combat gender-based violence.

Cabo Delgado province: extreme violence

Isabel and Délcio’s organisations work in Cabo Delgado province for a reason. Délcio explains: ‘This province has experienced extreme violence by armed groups since 2017. Nearly 1 million people have already fled. And as in all armed conflicts, women and girls in Cabo Delgado have faced extreme violence, including abuse, rape, kidnapping and economic oppression. According to our estimates, around 70% of women and girls in this province have been affected. This is a shocking percentage. Based in the relatively peaceful district of Namuno in southern Cabo Delgado, we’re working with the women and girls who have fled, helping them to process their experiences and become more resilient.’

Broader problem

According to Isabel, the problem of violence against women and girls is not limited to Cabo Delgado: ‘The problem is broader. Violence is prevalent throughout Mozambique. The socioeconomic position of women and girls increases their vulnerability. Women and girls do the housework, take care of the children, have no job, no income, no education and no access to social services. We work in this province, but thanks to the Dutch embassy’s support of the IGUAL programme, we can reach women and girls throughout the country.’

Awareness of legislation, access to justice

On paper, women and girls have equal rights in Mozambique. In practice, however, there is no legal equality. Isabel explains why: ‘You may have equal rights as a woman or girl, but you also need to know that you have those rights. Many women and girls in Mozambique can’t read or write. They simply don’t have the knowledge and skills to find out what their rights are. Not only are they not aware of the legislation, they also don’t have access to justice. Women and girls simply don’t know where and from whom they can get legal assistance.’

To address this inequality, the PEACE project is training legal assistants to help victims of gender-based violence. They provide legal assistance to women and girls and are specialised in the law of persons and family law. The legal assistants are deliberately selected from the same communities as the women and girls. ‘Gender-based violence leads to feelings of shame,’ Isabel says. ‘By working with legal staff that the women and girls already know and trust we can limit this feeling of shame so that they are more open to our help.’

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Training juridische medewerkers

Economic independence

According to Délcio, the likelihood of women and girls becoming victims of gender-based violence decreases if they are economically independent. ‘Right now, most women and girls aren’t in a position to escape their husbands’ violent behaviour,’ Délcio says, adding that ‘Where will I live?’ and ‘How will I get an income?’ are the concerns that the women and girls are dealing with.

The PEACE project therefore also focuses on increasing the economic independence of women and girls. ‘We provide training on how to start your own business and do the administration. Because many women and girls are illiterate, we also teach reading and writing,’ Délcio says.

Involve men and boys

Délcio believes that it will be impossible to put an end to violence against women and girls unless men and boys change their behaviour. ‘Our goal is to make women and girls resilient and independent. This has had some success and is already having a huge positive impact on gender-based violence. But men and boys also play a crucial role and so we need to involve them.’

This is achieved by allowing men and boys to participate in discussions during information sessions with women and girls. ‘Talking to each other brings dilemmas, prejudices and painful experiences out into the open. The men and boys also take an active part in the role play during one of our activities in which we re-enact situations of gender-based violence. The men and boys sometimes find this quite upsetting and it can lead to a real change in their thinking and actions,’ Délcio explains.

Radio broadcasts

Isabel and Délcio note that radio programmes about violence against women and girls also provide a way to reach men and boys. Though aimed at providing information to women and girls, everyone can listen to the programmes so men and boys also get to learn more about the issue.

Whole of society

‘Ultimately, it’s up to the whole of society to eliminate violence against women and girls,’ Isabel says. ‘The projects within the IGUAL programme contribute to eliminating gender-based violence in our country.’