Curtailing violence with initiatives

HARARE - Commemorating 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, Zimbabwean government officials and activists went the extra mile of calling for 365 days against savage acts perpetrated against women and girls.

But, all those days of massive campaigns could count for nothing if they fail to strike at the root of the problem.

In Buhera, about 300km southeast of Harare, hunger is at the heart of domestic violence.

Daily, women have to manage difficult situations in the midst of battering from abusive husbands.

Failing to provide at the table, men in this impoverished and arid area usually vent off at their spouses and families, a situation that locals say is central to domestic violence.

Realising that domestic violence is escalating, women are inventing strategies to ease the pain with a helping hand from groups such as Musasa Project.

Irene Wakukura from ward 7 said women are taking to economic activities such as small scale farming.

“We need to relieve our husbands from the pressures of being the breadwinners. It is an issue that there is no food in the house and I am doing nothing to help. In my home this often leads to fights and I never win that battle,” she told the Daily News on Sunday.

“We feel we will lose the breadwinner if we report the violence to the police. We cannot leave our homes because of the children,” said the 32-year-old mother.

Another villager, Irene Bepura, said most men in the area were unemployed and farming was difficult because of dry weather.

Bepura said if the area received enough rainfall, men would spend most of their time in the fields, working for their families, thereby reducing tension which usually cooks up as a result of deep-seated poverty.

“My husband does not go to work and most of the time we argue about the quantity of food to be cooked and the end result is we fight in front of the children,” Bepura said.

Bepura is now a member of a support group which gets help from Musasa Project Zimbabwe, a non-governmental organisation that supports women facing domestic violence.

As members of the group, Bepura and her peers educate each other and share information on domestic violence.

“We encourage each and every woman to be involved in income generating projects such as poultry and gardening to supplement the little harvest that is coming from our fields. If both the wife and the husband become productive it saves a lot of situations,” the 28-year-old mother of two said.

Tsitsi Wasara, a 28-year-old living with HIV, said the situation for women like her was worse.

“Discrimination in this area is still rampant and most of the people are still in denial. To make matters worse, there is a lot of food shortages and arguments leading to domestic fights. If men had something to do in the fields, the situation could have been different,” said the mother of one.

Another villager, Yamurai Mamombe, believes the programmes run by Musasa Project have helped “a great deal” in curbing domestic violence.

“In my village most men spend most of their time drinking home-brewed beer, which is cheap, because they do not have anything to do most of the time,” she said.

“But thank God to programmes that are being carried out by organisations such as Musasa, where most women are being trained and given information about domestic violence and how best it can be avoided, and most men have accepted it as well hence this has brought love in many families,” Mamombe said.

As hunger increases in Buhera, villagers often end up selling their livestock and other valuable assets in order to provide for their families.

Village headman Mutangi Tarwira Mundawarara said they reaped nothing from the last farming season.

“The rains disappeared when the maize was at tasseling stage and my villagers ended up travelling long distances to buy a maize bucket for $3 because locally it is being sold between $7 and $8,” he said.

Zimbabwe expected to harvest a million tonnes of maize in the 2011/12 cropping season, a decline in output from previous years of 33 percent, according to experts.

Agriculture experts said the nation requires 1 384 000 tonnes of grain for human consumption and 350 000 tonnes for livestock and other uses and the shortfall leaves the country with a deficit of nearly a million tonnes.

The shortfall will be covered by the country’s grain reserves of 500 000 tonnes plus imports from Zambia and the donor community.

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