Stakeholders Join Forces to End VAWC in Shinyanga
25 July 2023
Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) continues to be a thorn in the flesh for Shinyanga residents as it profoundly impacts the emotional, behavioral, and physical health of both children and women. It is unfortunate that the struggle to free victims from the jaws of violence is not easy. It requires concerted efforts and collective voices as most violent incidents are exacerbated by oppressive systems, customs, and traditions that exist in the society and cannot be changed overnight.
It is in recognition of this background that violence against women and children (VAWC) stakeholders in Shinyanga District Council, through the NPAVAWC project that is funded by Women Fund Tanzania Trust(WFTT), joined forces to ensure that fighting violence against women and children does not become a business of a single organization, but rather a war to be fought collectively.
Mr Jonathan Kifunda (Chairperson- Shinyanga EVAWC Working Group) explains how the group started, _“Shinyanga EVAWC Working Group is a voluntary and loose group made of more than 30 organizations implementing women’s and children’s interventions in Shinyanga District Council. The goal of its establishment is to help eradicate violence against women and children in the region". _
“It was also established in an effort to find the best approach to implement the NPAVAWC plan at local level. Champions organizations were WFTT, Save the Children, ICS, and TAI. It became officially operational in 2021 and it is guided by guidelines that were set and agreed upon by working group members.”
Regarding membership, Mr Kifunda said members of the working group are organizations that focus on interventions related to the prevention of violence against women and children, members of the media, and anyone interested in the group’s mission.
He added that any new member requesting to join the group is thoroughly assessed to ensure that all members stay in a common mission and agenda.
How Shinyanga EVAWC Working Group Works.
On the group’s structure, Mr Kifunda said that SHY-EVAWC group is coordinated by a secretariat that has four pillars; prevention, response, coordination, and communication. Three of the pillars align with NPA (Prevention, response, and coordination). Each pillar has its own team and lead person. The responsibility of the secretariat is to ensure that the network operates as required and guides members in creating and managing the procedures to govern themselves.
Representing the prevention team, Veronica Masawe said that the main responsibility of this pillar is to prevent violence against women and children through awareness raising, educating community members on the right places to report incidences of violence and advocacy. “So far in the prevention pillar, we have 24 member organizations. We implement together as a prevention team and not as individual organizations,” Masawe said.
For the response team, Peter Amani explained that they are responsible for responding to all violence against women cases by providing support or referring victims to legal, medical and psychosocial services and also attend to court sessions of violence cases from the community.
“We participate in organizing legal aid sessions during major events. For example, during the Legal aid campaign in Shinyanga, we managed to attend 102 cases. The response team has been used by the government to support different issues related to response,” he said.
Regarding the coordination pillar, Mr Kifunda said their main role is to provide thought leadership, resource mobilizations, and opportunity finding. This is through ensuring every member of the movement plays an active role and or take up leadership on matters within their pillar.
_ “We have been conducting capacity enhancement in areas of governance, and also identifying opportunities (information, connection/linkage) available at the regional and national levels just to see how our ideas can get there,” he said, adding that -coordination has become a THINK TANK and has increased the recognition to members._
In terms of communication which is led by Shinyanga Press Club, their main responsibility is internal communication for members, external communication, branding members’ activities, coordination of meetings, and producing IEC materials. For external communication, the role of this section is to increase relations with journalists to support the collection of information on incidents of violence and to cooperate with journalists in identifying sources of information. This unit has helped strengthen the relationship between members of the working group and the media
Explaining the achievements from the activities of the WG, they said that it has helped having information about incidents of violence reach many stakeholders. The network has also boosted the morale of journalists resulting in them writing and publishing stories about violence.
Improving coordination among actors positioned the movement to collectively respond to overlapping issues affecting women and children, and be able to provide timely support to the communities, particularly victims of violence.
They further added that members continue increasing, which is an indication that they see the good work done by the WG. “We have been participating together in organizing major events such as Day of the African Child, International Day of Women, etc
“The WG has become a learning platform and we are being noticed and recognized in the work we are doing. We have become a point of reference to stakeholders and donors. We managed to meet with the Minister(Hon Doroth Gwajima) during her visit in Shinyanga, Member of Parliament, RC, forum with the police on issues related to gender desk etc. The EVAWC Secretariat has become a reference point for donors. We do many things together and have succeeded in many of them. This is due to the fact that society recognizes us” Mr Kifunda explained.
**Role of WFT-T in Strengthening the WG **
Regarding the role of WFT-T, Mr Kifunda said it has played a facilitation role in enabling actors to progressively engage, liaise and jointly organize through their shared spaces to collaboratively address VAWC issues, in an empowering and intersectional way. WFT-T coordinated and organized events where feminist movement actors discussed possibilities of influencing policies that favor women and children’s rights through organized learning platforms.
He added that there has been a learning platform for the group that has been supported by WFT-T to help members learn. WFTT has also funded the working group and its members through grants for the implementation of different projects. “We really appreciate WFT-T for this support”
On sustainability, Mr Kifunda said that as a group, they realize that the WG has to be sustainable, so they have started the transformation processes which includes detaching the WG from WFT-T and changing mindsets of members, and increasing fundraising efforts.
Along with the success, there are some challenges including WG need to have a broad understanding such as capacity building in communication eg documentation of cases, inadequate resources etc
WFT-T believes that building collective work through women's and children’s movements is an instrumental strategy for knowledge sharing, collective action, and deconstructing power between women, girls, and children and beyond in different contexts, hence bringing the expected change.