Fighting domestic violence in Maputo

At the center for women victims of domestic violence, managed by the organization Nhamai in the province of Maputo (Mozambique), there’s a poster welcoming visitors and guests. It shows a woman trying to cope with an heavy basket over her head, a basket full of words: physical violence, psychological violence, sexual violence, social violence, economic violence, moral violence. It addresses the guests with a simple and direct question: “Did you know that domestic violence against women can have different shapes?”

“Domestic violence is a vicious cycle,” says Telma, COSV coordinator for the project. “It starts from verbal  forms to become physical, but also economic. There are many cases of women whose husbands don’t allow to work and don’t give them money, going as far as to deprive them of food. It is important to know the different forms that violence can take, to gain awareness and understand that being a wife doesn’t mean to be owned by a man. “

Information and awareness are essential to cope with the widespread cases of domestic violence, that in the area of intervention of Nhamai center involve about 30% to 45% of women. A spread that is closely linked to the deep cultural roots of violence: “domestic violence here is part of the normal process of marital relationships,” says Telma, “there’s a saying that goes – if your husband beats you, it is because he loves you. Women show signs of violence to their daughters, preparing them to what awaits them in marriages, and beatings and bruises become a topic of conversation. A situation that mobilizers and activists are trying to eradicate, with continuous information and awareness activities. “

There are 24 activists in Nhamai, trained through the project on the new Mozambican law against domestic violence, its legal implications and how to manage conflict and how to psychologically support the victims. The activists, both men and women, are mainly employees of social services and community leaders, and in turn they have formed 80 social mobilizers who closely work with communities in the districts of Matola, Maguede, Namahacha, Matutuine Moamba, Marracuene, Boane, Maputo . Their activities are carried out in close connection with the police and social services.

“In one of the communities where we work, we became aware of a rather serious situation where the wife constantly suffered physical violence by her husband,” one of the activists told us. “When we talked to the family, the woman told us that it was a private business, and therefore it had to remain within the household environment. But domestic violence is not a private matter, it is a deep problem in our society that starts from small episodes to expand in many areas. Women silently repress their anger for the violence suffered for long periods, until they react with extreme acts: that’s why prisons in Mozambique are filled with victims of abuse who escape their pains with physical revenge. It’s a social problem, and that is why we work informing and raising awareness, to achieve a cultural change”.

The center of Nhamai is the only one in the area, and now that renovation works finished it is all ready to properly receive guests. Someone has already arrived, finding at the center and among its staff all the material, psychological and legal support needed to tackle a path out of their daily life consisting of abuse.

The center is also experiencing its first results of the activation of small income-generating activities and the related training to Nhamai associated women – the activities started with the project, both for the sustainability of the center, both to allow the transfer of skills to the guests . The poultry farm has already made a first sale in December, with good satisfaction for the profit and the tailoring activity is experiencing a great time: at the beginning of the new school year (mid-January), they received orders for students’ uniforms. In Mozambique students are expected to have that proper uniform by the end of March, and in January families begin to commission the work to the tailors. The center of Nhamai has collected several orders, thanks to a discounted price, and it is expected that orders increase. These activities have been chosen after a thorough market research, that highlighted the lack of these services in the area .. everything is now ready also for the new hair salon, which will open soon!