Rights groups galvanise GBV fight

HARARE - As part of activities marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence — a campaign to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world —Zimbabwean campaigners have joined those around the world to challenge attitudes on violence against women and girls.

The campaign began on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on Human Rights Day.

With a new wave of activists standing up to entrenched and worsening gender violence in Zimbabwe, campaigners have hosted a range of activities, including conversations about gender inequality, amid a push for a greater cause of realising equal treatment of all genders amid worsening economic hardships.

The talk is centring around teaching men to have a greater sense of wanting to learn more about alternative masculinity and tools they can use to self-introspect.

According to the World Bank, gender-based violence (GBV) or violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that affects 1 in 3 women in their lifetime which translates to 35 percent.

At home, Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) recorded that 8 069 women were raped in 2016 while recent statistics for the first quarter of 2018 released in May this year recorded that 7 394 rape cases were reported in 2017.

These narratives influenced the intense activism against GBV around the country with activists calling for a stop to this barbaric act.

Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday, women activist groups and individual activists poured their hearts out on the kind of a world they want for women, and the set goals they are still fighting to achieve.

Shamwari Yemwanasikana director Ekenia Chifamba, who is also women and girls rights activist, said the ongoing campaign so far has led to increased uptake in information that has been disseminated to the various members of public in the fight against GBV.

“The ministry of Women Affairs has declared 365 Days of Activism and has put in Gender Focal Persons in every other government department or ministry,” Chifamba said.

She, however, said there is still an increase in GBV cases due to diverse factors such as the harsh economic climate as well as deeply rooted social norms, where GBV is mostly driven by patriarchy which gives a false sense of control on men and boys.

“The way men and boys are socialised gives them a status to show off their strength using any means possible including violence and the lack of positive role models around.  GBV is often within families and even cultivated by culture and religion,” Chifamba added.

“We still have men in our societies who do not believe in equality, and do not care about how women feel about issues like leadership and development.”

“Women have been conditioned by society to suffer in silence, they have been brought up in a manner that suggests that their own pain, feelings or emotions do not matter, and they are there to just satisfy their husbands.”

Commenting on the reasons that make women vulnerable, Chifamba said lack of economic power among women was another driver of GBV as men own 90 percent of the resources while women only have the remaining meagre 10 percent, according to research, thus men continue to suppress women as they have the upper hand.

Chifamba added that the Shamwari Yemwanasikana organisation hopes to see a Zimbabwe where girls and women’s overall rights are respected, cherished and upheld at all levels, with men and boys being pillars of support and embracing gender equality not as a duty but as a necessity.   

“All these drivers can be tamed through a multi-sector and well-coordinated GBV response mechanism that is not rigid but driven by all the concerned stakeholders, by having one coordinating mechanism, one monitoring and evaluation system as well as one plan of action,” she added.

Thandolwenkosi Gwinji, a gender and youth empowerment activist, also emphasised that patriarchy and intolerance from chauvinistic men are the major drivers of GBV.

Gwinji said as women and the world commemorate the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV, activists and organisations should be always reminded of what their priorities are as activists, and to continue intensifying campaigns that raise awareness on the GBV.

Over the years, women rights activist groups have held yearly campaigns under different themes in order to touch and focus on specific elements that cause GBV with this year’s focus on creating safe spaces for women at their workplace.

“Intense engagement of men and boys is very crucial in having role models who can positively mould their peers to be violent free, churches also need to have intensive programmes that address GBV from the pulpit as well as within the various church circles,” said Gwinji.

She added that there is need for political will in aligning the laws and policies that address GBV by the various policy makers and leaders so that there is a culture of prevention as well as strengthening of safety nets around GBV.

“If the deeply rooted norms are dealt with head on impartially, then GBV can be a thing of the past.”


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