Our Child Diversion programme in Malawi centers on diverting children, who come into conflict with the law, away from the formal criminal justice system. 29 children, aged between 10 and 17, were placed on our programme this past year and we are delighted to start profiling some of those who have taken part.
The child diversion programme, called Mwai Wosinthika (‘A Chance for Change’), is a 12-session, pre-trial diversion programme, facilitated in collaboration with the Malawi Ministry of Gender and other partner agencies. Child protection officers from the Ministry of Gender take the children through different topics aimed at supporting and empowering them to change their circumstances, pursue their goals, and make positive and informed choices. Many sessions are activity-based, allowing the children to interact more freely.
Our programme is one of only a few programmes that exist in the country which offer an alternative to detention for children accused of crimes. The facilitators empower young people, who frequently turn to crime as a result of poverty, by teaching them about professional goals and connecting them to various vocational resources as well as giving them the responsibility and choice to change their behaviour, so that they can create better lives for themselves.
Here’s one great testimony from 17 year old Siphiwe (we’ve used a pseudonym to protect her identity)
IRLI: Tell us about your life in Malawi?
S: My life in Malawi is great, I live with my mother.
What sort of difficulty with the law were you involved with?
I used to fight at school and at home. I used to also participate in illegal betting activities in the streets and go into bars. That’s how I found myself to be selected for the Mwai Wosinthika programme to help me change, and I really have. I don’t do any of those things anymore.
How has the IRLI’s Child Diversion programme benefited you?
The programme has helped me prevent a lot of things in my life, for instance getting into fights, like I used to, and also not surrounding myself with people who were bad influences in my life.
Do you feel happy to have been involved in the programme?
The programme really changed my life for the better and I am really happy that I took part in it. It helped me become a more patient and peaceful person and not get into arguments with people all the time, and it has helped prevent me from the possibility of entering the formal justice system.
What would you like to do with the remainder of your life?
I would like to find work where I can use my hands. I am really good at hair braiding, so I would like to open up my own hair salon one day.