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GBV impedes development: UN, WALPE, WERDIT reckon

Mr. Edward Kallon, marking the beginning of 16 Days of Activism Against GBV

The United Nations (UN), Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), and the Wedza Residents Development Initiative Trust (WERDIT) are among the stakeholders who reiterated that gender-based violence (GBV) is an impediment to development.

The sentiments came yesterday as stakeholders marked the beginning of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) under the theme ‘All Lives Matter! End Gender-Based Violence Now!’.

On his part, Mr. Edward Kallon, the UN Zimbabwe Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator said gender-based violence is often used interchangeably with violence against women, reflecting the disproportionate number of these crimes against women. That is why this Year’s theme ‘All Lives Matter! End Gender-Based Violence Now!’ is so befitting.

He reckoned this global GBV pandemic is deeply rooted in gender inequality and is fundamentally a human rights violation. Gender-based violence has no social or economic boundaries. It is present in all countries, rich and poor and affects all socio-economic groups.

He shared some sobering facts on GBV as follows:

  • Globally, one in three women has been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their lifetime.
  • Globally 81,000 women and girls were killed in 2020, and around 47,000 of them (58 per cent) died at the hands of an intimate partner or a family member, which equals a woman or girl being killed every 11 minutes in their home.
  • In 2021, nearly 1 in 5 women aged 20-24 were married before turning 18.
  • Less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seek the help of any sort.

According to the latest surveys in Zimbabwe, it is sobering to know that 39% of women reported being physically abused since the age of 15, and 12% of women and girls between 15-49 years had experienced sexual violence. Intimate Partner Violence is the most dominant form of violence in Zimbabwe. Mr. Kallon urged stakeholders to be their daughters, sisters, mothers, and grandmothers’ keepers and reiterated society shall no longer be bystanders to an unjust and unequal society for women and girls.

The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence said the theme comes at a time when the country is grappling with the disturbing cases of two pregnant nine-year-old girls from Bindura and Tsholotsho.

“By dropping out of school to care for their children, these girls’ chances of becoming leaders have been robbed as they will not be able to be adequately capacitated to effectively take up leadership and decision-making positions.

“Statistics indicate that one in three (33%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime, while 36.6 % of women in Africa have experienced the same. To add to that data released by Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency on Zimbabwe shows that 11.6% of women aged 15–49 years experienced sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, and 5.1% experienced sexual violence in the past 12 months,” WALPE said.

They noted that the resurgence of violence against women and aspiring women leaders in Mbare, Nyatsime, Insiza, and Matobo should also be taken into account.

Women politicians have expressed concern at the high prevalence of sexual harassment and violence against them and have since attributed this as one of the major reasons why women and young women shun taking up and occupying leadership positions due to the violence, intimidation, and harassment that is associated with politics. Online violence against aspiring women leaders, women leaders as well as human rights defenders and activists has also taken a rise, contributing to the low numbers of women participating in political processes.

As such WALPE recommends that:

  • A stiffer, mandatory sentence for rape is imposed on existing and future laws.
  • Perpetrators of violence against women and girls are given harder punishments for their offence.
  • Those convicted of sexual offences should be barred from contesting for public office as they pose a threat to society.
  • A comprehensive Sexual Harassment Act that incorporates all spheres is enacted to protect victims and provide the police and courts with legislation they can use to arrest and prosecute perpetrators.
  • Principles of all political parties publicly sign a pledge that compels them to ensure safe and violence-free spaces for women in politics to participate freely and punish perpetrators accordingly.

Grounded in the community, Wedza Residents Development Initiative Trust (WERDIT), operating in 15 wards of Wedza district said the commemoration is an organizing platform for its stakeholders and duty bearers around the district to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

WERDIT said the theme is quite befitting given the reality that violence against women and girls remains the most pervasive human rights violation in the district and beyond. Already exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, its prevalence is now being further heightened by the emerging challenges of climate change, global conflict, and economic instability.

“The case of Chipo Gwese, a woman who lived with a disability who was killed in cold blood on the 20th of March 2022 by a serial killer whom she was hanging with remains very shocking and a testimony of how women are vulnerable to violence.

“From now till the 10th of December 2022, WERDIT is encouraging diverse residents groups in the district to get involved: from raising the voices of survivors and fire-brand women’s activists to supporting women’s initiatives towards their rehabilitation as equal partners with their male counterparts and ultimately their empowerment, reduction and prevention of violence against women and girls, and protection of women’s rights.

“Through our Peace Building and Conflict Management project entitled, Building Resilience, Inclusiveness, Social Cohesion and Healing (BRICH) we have done a lot of work with relevant state and non-state actors to identify conflicts in the district with a bias towards GBV. Targeting the hotspots of GBV WERDIT has conducted a cocktail of activities seeking to eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against women.”

In that regard, the WERDIT Peace Structures known as Community Advocacy Teams (CATs) in all the wards have managed to unearth a total of 40 cases of GBV between May and November 2022 and have been brought to the attention of relevant authorities in the district.

Utilizing its cordial relations with the Zimbabwe Republic Police(ZRP) and Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, council, and the District Development Coordinator’s(DDC) Office, WERDIT managed to obtain a multiplicity of timely policy interventions as a remedy to the challenges to do with violation of women’s rights, particularly during the Covid 19 era.

Since its formation, WERDIT has successfully become a platform for state and non-state actors to deliberate GBV-driven challenges and conflicts.

Consequently, these platforms have yielded noble resolutions currently being pursued by the duty bearers including the establishment of a one-stop center for GBV in the district and a rehabilitation centre for survivors of GBV.

At WERDIT platforms, it was also realized that peripheral areas in the district such as Zviyambe are too far from Wedza Police station, hence the call for a police post in that area. The idea of neighborhood watch in hotspots for GBV also came out from the mentioned engagements, hence advocacy and resources to implement these ideas will continue to be on our agenda as we fight to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende