Diversion Programme


What is Mwai Wosinthika?

Mwai Wosinthika is a diversion programme complimentary to the Malawian Constitution and the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act 2010 that is delivered by Irish Rule of Law International in Lilongwe in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development (the Ministry), the Malawi Police Services (MPS) and the Malawi Judiciary (the Judiciary).

IMG-20170614-WA0005The programme is called Mwai Wosinthika (meaning ‘a chance for change’) and it is intended as an alternative to custody for children in conflict with the law. The programme aims to give young people the chance and opportunity to change their circumstances. Most importantly, the programme seeks to empower young people by giving them the responsibility and the choice to make changes in their behaviour so that they can continue their education and go on to be productive members of their community and Malawian society.

Since its inception, the programme has received the full support of the core institutions in the Malawian criminal justice system, i.e. the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the judiciary, the Malawi Police Services, the Malawi Prison Service and the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare.

Each 12-week programme offers space for approximately 20 participants, aged between 10 and 17 years. Many of the sessions are “activity-based sessions”, which allow participants to interact more freely. The sessions are facilitated by social welfare officers from the Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare. IRLI is also working in partnership with Chisomo Children’s Club, who assist in coordinating the programme.

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The primary target group for the programme consists of children between the ages of 10 and 17 years who are in conflict with the law. These children may be referred to IRLI by officers of the Malawi Police Services, social welfare officers or the Child Justice Court. They may also be referred by other NGOs (e.g. Tikondane or Chisomo Children’s Home) who specialise in working with street children, including those who have come in conflict with the law, if they feel that the programme would be beneficial to a particular child.

The long-term objective is that this programme will be used as a model for similar programmes elsewhere in Malawi and that it will ultimately form part of the diversion policy for children coming into conflict with the law throughout the country.

What is Diversion?
Diversion can be defined as the channelling of prima facie cases away from the criminal justice system with or without conditions. It allows offenders, who have admitted their wrongdoing and shown a willingness to change, to return to their lives and communities. Families are not disproportionately affected and, simultaneously, the burden on the prisons and court system is lessened. Diversion also lessens the risk of reoffending and supports the rehabilitation of offenders. It encourages offenders to take responsibility for their actions and to change their behaviour.

The diversion process may be initiated by police officers, social welfare or the courts, as the case may be. There are multiple diversion options and the one employed should be tailored to the particular individual and case in question. As diversion may be triggered on first contact with the law, it allows police officers to deal with offenders in a more effective manner.

Child diversion is particularly important, as often children who offend do not understand their offense or the impact it can have. Furthermore, a background of poverty or poor family relations can often lead children to offend. The Child Care, Protection and Justice Act 2010 offers several options for diversion – the Mwai Wosinthika programme is only one such option. Options range from caution and release or referral to social welfare, to participation in a diversion programme and/or reparation or restitution. As a form of diversion, the programme aims to deliver real and sustainable outcomes for young Malawians in conflict with the law or who are at high risk of offending.