Women’s Legal Resource Centre (Wolrec) Project Officer Loyce Gogoda says community paralegals and star circle members it trained have helped facilitate gender-based violence (GBV) management in STAs Phimbi and Nyanyala in Balaka. She was speaking on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Balaka Magistrate Court sitting as a circuit court at Phimbi presided over by Balaka First Grade Magistrate Phillip Chibwana which convicted and sentenced Saiti Magaba, 42, to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour for defilement. Gogoda said the case would have remained unknown without community paralegals involvement after Magaba allegedly defiled a 12-year-old girl. “The man enticed the girl with K500, but parents probed her, and she revealed that Magaba gave her the money. However, after reluctance from the relations Wolrec trained community paralegals took up the matter with police. “We trained the community paralegals in partnership with Oxfam under UN Women Fund to help facilitate management of GBV issues in the community looking at how some people conceal such issues. This has helped communities to know what to do whenever they encounter GBV hence they are in the forefront ensuring that women and girls access justice. “This was also part of building confidence to communities because they witnessed the results of the case right there without wasting resources to hear the outcome of the case. We have also strengthened the already existing working relationship between different stakeholders and members of the community,” she said. Gogoda further said the aim is to ensure that women and girls live violence free lives and increase access to justice for victimised women. Phimbi community activist Catherine Amos said they are happy with the way this issue has been handled and everyone was satisfied with the determination. Balaka Police Station Community Policing Coordinator Harrison Nogwe said bringing the court to the village is one way of sensitising communities on how serious GBV issues are. “The community members have learnt about the criminal justice system and have also been sensitized on Child Protection Related laws. With the conviction a strong warning message has been sent to would be offenders,” Nogwe said. He said communities will now be taking a leading role in the fight against Child and Women abuse in reporting such cases to relevant authorities.