Mozambique: How two activists overcome lockdown to support GBV survivors

 Mozambique
 Advocacy
 30th Nov 2020

Helena Ernesto Tome: "COVID-19 changed my way of working because now I can't get too close to the survivors."

My Name is Helena Ernesto Tome, I'm 30 years old, I'm a social agent (supervisor of Chipangara, Inhamizua and Dondo BIOSP- (Information Desk for Social and Professional Orientation) of AMPDC and I've been doing social service for the community since 2015, to end VBG in the community. As a social actor, I raise awareness and motivate women so many men that everything can be solved with dialogue and not with fighting.

How did you get started working to end GBV? Why did you choose to do it, how did you get into it? 

I started working on this field first by only visiting the elderly, and after making so many consecutive visits, some mothers approached me to talk about their situation. I chose to do this work because I am a woman before anything else, and not only because of that, but I have seen so many women suffering from violence and not denouncing their partners. Besides that, I have also suffered violence with my husband. I never did anything; only after working on this program, I decided to stop all forms of violence that women suffer without a response.

How has COVID-19 changed how you communicate or work with GBV survivors?  

COVID-19 changed my way of working because now I can't get too close to the survivors. I have to create distance between them because before Covid 19, I met with the survivor in a group of 15 mothers, but now I had to divide the group into two.

What are some of the biggest challenges and obstacles you have to overcome in your work and the current response?  

So far, my challenge is to encourage women to talk more about their situations, believe in justice, and provide a reliable complaint and feedback mechanism to the GBV survivors. Also, help them understand that not everything is lost and that there are still institutions or people who fight on their behalf.

What lessons have you learnt along the way? 

During the journey, I learned that we have to be confidential with all the information provided to us. I have also learned that you have to be their friends and be more active listening if you need to have more information with the survivors.

Lidia Fernando Albano: "We need to work with community leaders to be successful in our programs as influential people in the communities"

My name is Lidia Fernando Albano, 28 Gender Officer at AMPDC, I am implementing activities in  Beira, Dondo, Buzi and Chibabava Districts. My work is to support women and girls to access justice and women's rights, sensitizing communities about the rights of women and girls, including people with disabilities.  Besides, I work with the provincial and district directorate of Gender and social action for referrals of GBV cases to receive legal support, psychosocial support, and first medical care for survivors of violence. 

How did you get started working to end GBV? Why did you choose to do it, how did you get into it?  

As a young Mozambican girl, I noticed many practices of not valuing women and girls' human rights. The lack of knowledge and the norms that violate their rights, the fear of submissiveness or illiteracy, inspired me to work with organizations of women's rights to ensure that women, girls, and people with disabilities are protected from all forms of violence. 

How has COVID-19 changed how you communicate or work with GBV survivors?   

Due to social distancing and the national government's new public health measures, it has been impossible to raise mass awareness among community members. We have chosen to raise awareness with a megaphone and door to door to a significant number of women and girls to access information and services available at the call centers. 

What are some of the biggest challenges and obstacles you have to overcome in your work and the current response?   

During the emergency, when the meeting was forbidden, it was challenging to work with the beneficiaries door-to-door. It used to draw a lot of the community attention, knowing that our province was devastated by the cyclone IDAI many people thought that we were enlisting beneficiaries to receive the "7500 meticais", but with the help of the community leaders, this challenge was eliminated. The greatest challenge is women's awareness of the need to change their behavior, not hide cases of violence, but denounce these kinds of acts so that justice can be done and they receive the necessary support. 

What lessons have you learned along the way?  

We need to work with community leaders to be successful in our programs as influential people in the communities, to know the culture of each community we work to avoid hurt sensitivities, to be as simple people as possible so that the survivors or beneficiaries are as open as possible, and not to be at the level of superiority, otherwise we will not have successes in our programs. 

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