The Spotlight Initiative is a partnership between the Government of Malawi, European Union, United Nations, and the Civil Society. It focuses on eliminating violence against women and girls, including Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and Harmful Practices. The Initiative supports targeted large-scale investments aimed at achieving significant impact in the lives of women and girls in six districts. In addition to enabling a holistic approach to end violence against women and girls, the Initiative promotes Agenda 2030’s guiding principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ and builds on the momentum of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) efforts, especially Goal 5 on gender equality.

Expected Results

Outcome 1: Legislative and policy frameworks, based on evidence and in line with international human rights standards, on all forms of violence against women and girls and harmful practices are in place and translated into plans

Outcome 2: National and sub-national systems and institutions plan, fund and deliver evidence-based programmes that prevent and respond to violence against women and girls and harmful practices, including in other sectors

Outcome 3: Gender equitable social norms, attitudes and behaviour change at community and individual levels to prevent violence against women and girls and harmful practices and promote women and girls' SRHR

Outcome 4: Women and girls who experience violence, including SGBV/HP, use available, accessible, acceptable, and quality essential services including for long term recovery from violence.

Outcome 5: Quality, disaggregated and globally comparable data on different forms of violence against women and girls and harmful practices collected, analysed and used in line with international standards to inform laws, policies and programme

Outcome 6: Women's and girls’ rights groups, autonomous social movements and relevant CSOs, including those representing youth and groups facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination/marginalization, more effectively influence and advance progress on GEWE and VAWG, including SGBV/HP, and SRHR

Implementation Status

In its third year of implementation, the Spotlight Initiative (SI) Malawi is on track to achieving its targets, with 167% of the targeted number of beneficiaries reached cumulatively and a year of the Programme still to come.

The strategic leadership of the 2 SI Line Ministries- the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare (MoGCDSW) and the Ministry of Local Government (MoLG) continues to be critical in ensuring national ownership, and the SI’s alignment to National Development Priorities.

The 4 United Nations Agencies (UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women), led by the UN Resident Coordinator (UNRC) worked alongside over 50 SI partners and stakeholders to E-VaWG in 2021. This includes Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), traditional and religious leaders, media houses, academia, Government and Quasi-Governmental Entities , and crucially, women, girls and their communities.

With so many partners working to achieve the Programme’s goals and objectives, fewer Covid-19 related hindrances, and a well-established approach to E-VaWG, the year 2021 saw the SI achieve considerable progress and impact.

Under Pillar 1 on laws and policies, the drafting of 7 by-laws not only abolished or amended 18 HPs, they also facilitated a community led movement to protect women and girls that is sustainably grounded in a legal framework.

The now established Chiefs Forums under Pillar 2 (Institutions) enabled an escalation of efforts by Traditional Leaders to E-VaWG. Following the training of 1,561 Chiefs, these champions of change collectively annulled 1,222 child marriages (representing 98% of registered child marriages in the 6 districts), and the re-enrolment of the girls in school.

The alliance with a broad array of community-based actors under Pillar 3 (Norms and Prevention) has prompted communities to take the E-VaWG into their own hands. With nearly 25,000 mentors and mentees, the protective network of women and girls who support each other to stand up to violence, promote behaviour change and access services has expanded substantially. The girls facilitated the re-enrolment of 959 girls in school and referred nearly 2,000 cases of mostly sexual violence to the authorities. Under the same pillar, 6,459 male champions have become active agents of change and are promoting positive masculinities towards E-VAWG and SRHR using the male engagement operational guide drafted under the Programme. School-based SGBV has been considerably mitigated for 112,219 learners in 98 schools, who now have access to complaints boxes directly managed by the Malawi Police Service. Consequently 31 cases of rape were identified and investigated by the Police- sending a strong message of deterrence to students and teachers.

These community led efforts supported by the SI have resulted in a dramatic increase of reports of violence, which are being ably handled by SI funded service delivery points (Pillar 4- Services). In 2021 36,439 SGBV cases were reported and followed up on , including 709 child marriages of which 430 were annulled and the girls re-enrolled in school. These figures represent an 87% increase in the number of cases reported compared with 2020- suggesting a significant degree of SGBV/ HP service demand creation achieved in SI districts.

With the SI’s support through Pillar 5 (Data), Malawi is now on its way to having official internationally comparable and disaggregated data on SGBV/ HPs and SRHR. This is owing to the standardization of data collection tools being used by Policy, community structures and district officers and the establishment of the GBV Observatory Hub. The hub already has 2,798 recorded cases.

Finally, the district women’s assemblies under pillar 6 are steadily growing with 790 new women’s rights activists recruited in 2021. The SI has focused on building an inclusive movement of diverse women who are actively holding duty bearers accountable for their response to VaWG using scorecards.


Six Districts: Mzimba, Nkhata Bay, Ntchisi, Dowa, Machinga and Nsanje
Women and Children
Contact Details

EU Delegation to Malawi

European Union, United Nations
United Nations
Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development