Action 15 - Provide solutions

Since 2011, Joyce Schembri has been leading the Voices Against Violence curriculum in Malta. Violence is a personal issue for Joyce after her daughter experienced dating violence, stalking and harassment as a teenager. With support from the Malta Girl Guides National Board and her team of Leaders (Moira, Martina, Rachel, Stephanie, Samantha and Marjoe), Joyce has put Malta Girl Guides at the very centre of the country’s work to end violence against women and girls – thanks to Joyce, laws have changed, the way victims of violence are supported by the police is being overhauled and Female Genital Mutilation is now illegal in Malta.

2016_Malta_women march against violence WAGGGS

“In 2010 my daughter went through teenage dating violence, physical and emotional abuse, harassment and stalking. It was very hard. So when in 2011 the opportunity came up to go to Our Cabana, Mexico and start doing something to tackle violence, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to make sure that no other girl goes through what my daughter went through.” 

“When we first started delivering the curriculum we had issues with some of the leaders being too scared to take this on. I didn’t want to take the chance of any girl wanting to do the curriculum but not being able to because a leader doesn’t want to take part. So we organised a three-day sleep over for the girls. Leaders didn’t have to run the event, but they had to come along and listen. My daughter came and told the girls her story – how her boyfriend stopped her going to places and doing things and about the abuse she endured. At the end of her speech, the girls ran up and hugged her. There were about 160 girls that attended and they just ran up and hugged her.”

“Hearing her story and seeing us run the curriculum made a huge impact on the leaders. They were so scared of doing it, but when they saw the workshops they realized how important this was.”

“It had a huge impact on the girls too. To hear it from someone who is not much older than them made a big difference. My daughter was able to speak out for those who can’t. To write it all down, read it out and tell her story – it really helped her heal.”

2016_Malta_March against violence with sign WAGGGS

“Girl Guiding has opened up doors and taken me to places that I’d never dreamed of. We have achieved a lot since we started in 2011 and we do not have our breaks on yet.  Together with the National Commissioner of Domestic Violence, we’ve set up an NGO network that meets on a monthly basis. Together we’re starting to work with various government departments to make change happen, starting with the police force. More police need to be trained on how to deal with victims. We’re working to develop procedure lists – of what a victim should know when she gets to the police station and what her rights are.” 

“We’re united with other agencies to ensure that when a victim goes to report a rape for example, she doesn’t just report and then not know what to do. We’re working to ensure that victims of violence feel they are supported by one, cohesive service. All of this comes from recommendations that our team made to the Commissioner of Domestic Violence.”

“We’ve managed to change quite a few laws in Malta. We presented resolutions for the immediate regulation of the gentlemen’s clubs which have been successful. We’ve also successfully campaigned to amend the age of criminal responsibility raising it from age 9 to age 14. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is now illegal in Malta and we initiated that too. FGM hasn’t traditionally been an issue for Maltese girls, but through my previous work with the Malta Red Cross I know that there are women in the refugee camps who this does affect. We developed written petitions to get laws changed. That started the ball rolling. The ministry of health took on what we were saying about FGM and made this illegal.”

“We have taken many actions to ensure that we are heard. We held a silent march and a flash mob in the capital city. Rangers and Young Leaders presented a survey that we had done on the perception of violent relationships to parliament. We produced a comic book on healthy relationships.”

“Through all of this, I’ve learned to be more assertive - more determined to ensure what I set out to do is done. We are really recognised as experts in Malta. Each time we finish one thing we’re either approached by someone to help out with a new project or to partner with them -it keeps the ball rolling each time. Our voice is being heard.”

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