Women Coalition Against Cancer (WOCACA), in collaboration with United Religions Initiative (URI) Lilongwe Central Cooperation, held the “Support, Don’t Punish” campaign on 27th June 2017 at Chinsapo, in Likuni - Malawi.
It is within reality that we are born different; this is why we believe we do things based on our lifestyle, as long as we don’t harm or complicate others.
Malawi as a country has punitive laws and policies in the fight against drugs. And it comes with no surprise that, in our of community Chinsapo, almost 61.3% of our youth has been in prison for their use and possession of drugs. When they come back from prison, they become worse due to lack of rehabilitation while in prison.
In this regard, WOCACA and URI Lilongwe Cooperation Circle joined the global campaign “Support, Don’t Punish” on 27th June 2017 to call for drug policy reforms and harm reduction initiatives to deal with the fight on drugs.
The Support Don’t Punish campaign is a global initiative held every year, as this is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a day when governments typically celebrate their record of drug arrests and seizures. In the past, some governments had even commemorated this day by holding public executions or beatings of drug offenders. Yet, by the United Nations’ own admission, the ‘war on drugs’ has failed to reduce drug use and has led to serious negative consequences, such as overdose deaths, HIV and hepatitis C infections among people who use drugs, prison over-crowding, severe human rights violations, and an exacerbation of stigma, marginalization, violence and corruption.
By organizing this event, the WOCACA, in collaboration with URI, Lilongwe Cooperation Circle, joined partners from all continents in proclaiming that the harm being caused by the war on drugs can no longer be ignored. It is time to leave behind harmful politics, ideology and prejudice. It is time to prioritize health and human rights over incarceration and futile efforts to achieve a ‘drug-free world’. It is time to support, and not punish, people who use drugs and other non-violent drug offenders.
Our campaign focused on encouraging positive initiatives in the forms of rehabilitation and counseling Chinsapo community youth who are involved in drugs, in order for them to be responsible citizens. As currently in Malawi, very little or no efforts at all are being done to help those youths overcome drug abuse such as marijuana, and another substance called Mkalabongo “Brain Scratch”, Midoli, which contribute to poor mental health of the youth. Due to this, sometimes they venture into criminal activities.
Our clear voice was to lobby and encourage government and all policy makers to look up for policy reforms to facilitate rehabilitation centres for our youth instead of punishing them. We also advocated for government to continue exploring measures for the better use of marijuana scientifically.
The event was graced by Mrs Charity Salima, Chair of WOCACA, Mrs Maud Mwakasungula, the Executive Director of WOCACA, Mr Christopher Namankwa and Mrs Monika Singani, representatives of government and political parties, Chief Manda, the media and members of the community.
In his remarks, Chief Manda, representing 27 Chiefs, strongly agreed that a drug problem was affecting the youth in the community, and that some were worried that the community was fighting a losing battle due to an increase of drug abuse by the youth.
WOCACA Executive Director Mrs Maud Mwakasungula addressed the community on the connection of health, drug abuse and cancer. She also spoke for the need of drug reform and pushing for harm-reduction efforts.
Lastly, Mr Geoffrey Manasseh of URI, Lilongwe CC spoke through the paraphrase that “Change brings Changes” and has agreed to look into the reform of drug policy and initiating harm-reduction programmes to contribute positively to the fight on drugs. He said that URI will continue to amplify the voice of disadvantaged people and make sure that peace prevails and is shared at all levels.
We are very happy to acknowledge all government officials, politicians, and Cooperation Circle members from Karonga and Ntcheu Kasinje for attending the event launch. We are very happy to see the group headed by the Chiefs and City Counselor to move forward by meeting monthly to see the progress.
Report prepared by Geoffrey Manasseh
30th June 2017