Saphira Mulemba, on Violence Alcohol Treatment Zambia (VATU)
VATU means ‘ours’ in Nyanja, one of the main local languages spoken in Zambia. This programme is for our Zambian families, in fact, all families who live in similar settings, as violence against women and children is a daily reality for many in Zambia.
No single “risk factor” can explain why some individuals behave violently towards women or children or why violence against women and girls appears to be more prevalent in certain communities than in others, however, it is clear that alcohol abuse is a significant contributor. Alcohol can be both a cause and a consequence of interpersonal violence. My name is Saphira Mulemba and I am the Project Manager on the What Works project in Zambia. Our intervention programme, the Common Elements Treatment Approach (CETA), is trying to reduce and prevent the perpetration and experience of interpersonal violence in part by addressing alcohol use problems in Zambia. CETA addresses a wide range of mental and behavioural health problems that affect the family dynamics surrounding violence exposure (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma, behavioural problems, and substance abuse).
Our CETA programme involves locally trained counsellors conducting weekly group or individual therapy sessions with their clients. Sessions are typically 1-2 hours in length and treatment lasts for 8-12 weeks. The clients in our study are families living in three peri-urban communities in Lusaka. The family group that we work with consists of three individuals: an adult woman, her husband or partner, and one identified child (boys and girls, ages 8-17). All individuals of a family received CETA if randomized to this study arm. Although we won’t know the true effectiveness of CETA until the end of the study, counsellors on our team have reported significant positive feedback from their male clients. For example, one male client reported that “This programme has helped me realize that I need not to force my wife to have sex but instead talk to her about it”. Men who have struggled with alcohol use problems have informed their counsellors about positive changes in their relationships with their wives and how their overall family dynamics have dramatically improved. They have also reported that they feel healthier, are able to go to work more consistently, and have even told their friends and neighbours who are experiencing similar alcohol problems about the benefits of our CETA programme.
Conversely, men enrolled in our study who have not yet received CETA have expressed to our team the need for services to help not only themselves but their family as well. We are encouraged by the response to our programme by men in the community and believe that engagement of the entire family unit in CETA increases the likelihood that alcohol use and interpersonal violence will decrease.