People in Need works with civil society in Angola to boost gender equality and tackle domestic violence
“Now, I feel that I am a person.” This is how Avelina Jamba, 28, defines how her life has changed. Avelina is a beneficiary of People in Need FOCO, a project aimed at empowering women and developing civil society technical capacities. After receiving one of the sewing kits distributed last year for women living in Bié Province, Angola Avelina began working for FOCO as a seamstress.
Avelina Jamba takes care of six children, four of them are her own and two of them her sister´s. Her major concern in life used to be having enough money to pay the rent by the end of each month. After she started working as a dressmaker, her concern was no longer an issue, “I was able to buy a 1-bedroom house with a living room. It is not a big house, but it is my house and I don’t need to pay rent anymore,” she says.
Avelina has since bought a second sewing machine to increase her income. Her life now is a very different scenario, compared to when she did not have a regular revenue, and faced difficulties to even buy food for the whole family. “A lot has changed. Formerly, I didn’t consider myself as a person; now I feel that I am a person,” Avelina says.
FOCO, wanting to create and implement income-generating activities for the women of Bié, in hopes of overall social and economic empowerment was their biggest tool and driving force. The thirty-five month project was funded by the European Union and Czech Development Agency, and implemented throughout Kuito and Andulo, municipalities of the Bié province.
The project also focused on fostering a network of institutions that dealt with domestic violence. FOCO began to promote courts of justice, hospitals, schools, police, governmental organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations. The police inspector, Carla Guiembi, mentioned how helpful good conversation between different institutions can be to achieve good outcomes for the community: “We exchange information on the cases and share experiences and data. Everything is easier now. It has been a big change for our work,” she says.
The Angolan Government, in efforts to fulfill its international commitments towards the protection of women and promotion of gender equality, has begun creating legislation for domestic violence. The Law 25/11, approved in 2011, now establishes crime within a violent sphere to be any of the following violent acts; physical, psychological, verbal, patrimonial and family abandonment, this is also applicable to situations when the perpetrator has a close relationship with the victim. Unfortunately, due to a very patriarchal culture, and the difficulty in spreading information on the rights of domestic violence´s victims, the incidence of gender-based violence is still high.
3,000 cases of domestic violence
Throughout 9 years of work, police inspector, Carla, has already dealt with about three thousand cases of domestic violence. However, she does see improvement in the society. “Formerly, women did not use to complain, they were not aware of what domestic violence was. Woman used to be submissive, even when a woman could not stand her husband anymore, she did not speak out, she lived in her silence. The law has opened the mind of women. Now they know what domestic violence is,” she says.
Gaining enough awareness on the new law was a concern of FOCO, during the implementation of this new legislation. The project eventually developed small campaign activities amongst men, women, and young students.
“People, women, families and all the community supporting women are much more aware of the impact of the domestic violence to the family and children´s development. Many women reported that the awareness raising processes were very important to them, and has given them strength to fight against this stigma,” says Marta Brites, head of Economy, Trade & Social Sector section of European Delegation in Angola.
Keeping up the efforts to promote gender equality
The efforts continue as FOCO II which is also funded by the European Commission, has partnered up with local associations in efforts to expand to the Huíla province. FOCO II aims at strengthening the capacities of civil society organizations and improving their dialogue with local authorities. Within a gender perspective, all activities also foster gender equality and women´s empowerment.
“In this second phase, the objective is to raise awareness both with the communities and with the local and national administrations on gender issues, and on the need to bring the voice of this community to the partnership with the government,” the EU representative says.
FOCO II works to support the Social Protection Network for Domestic Violence´s Victims of Bié, while also tackling gender based violence and, specifically, domestic violence. FOCO II also intends to improve the response of the Children’s Network of Huíla in specific cases of domestic violence.