Nweti means “moon” in Changana, a Bantu language spoken in the southern Provinces of Gaza, Inhambane and Maputo, in Mozambique. It implies a light in the night, a sign of hope, something that can help bring people out of the darkness.
Nweti is also the name of a well-known organization working on gender-based and domestic violence and Sexual Rights and Reproductive Health. Active since 2003 as a regional program from Soul City Institute and as a national organization since 2007, it targets the most vulnerable communities across the country. Its meaning could not fit better for many women facing violence at home, like Virginia.
34-year-old and mother-of-5 Virginia Manuel Machuene got married when she was still in school because she got pregnant and, as she says, “girls are not allowed to be in school while there are expecting.” She suffered physical and psychological domestic violence since the first moment she moved to her husband’s house.
She left him several times but her parents just made her go back home with him and put up with the situation.
She finally reported the violence to one of the community leaders in Massaca, and was referred to Nweti. There she learned how to defuse these violent encounters.
“I no longer confront my husband if he does something wrong, I no longer force the situation. Instead, we calm down and talk.”
Maria Jose Arthur, Co-ordinator for Communication of the women's rights organization Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA Mozambique), at her office in Maputo, Mozambique. Photo: Brett Eloff / Oxfam
“What the activists teach us is that in cases of violence, we should report it to community leaders. They teach us women should not keep quiet when they suffer violence.”
The violence stopped and things gradually started to change at home. Now, Victoria is taking charge of her life. She is now an advisor for other women, teaches them how to defuse violent situations at home, and still attends the community dialogue sessions.
“Nowadays people are changing…I can’t say why. Maybe it is the church, the activists working with us here, or maybe the laws are changing, or because we have brochures that people can read and people can change. But not so many people are going through this kind of violence.”
Since the late 1990s, Oxfam has been supporting groups in Mozambique working on reforming laws in ways that will encourage the state and society to better respect the rights of women to own land and property and live free from domestic and sexual violence.