Community Development Health

SAGWN, Urgent Action Fund partner on SRHR services for girls, women

Sanitary wear recipients in Seke

The Survivors in Action Grassroots Women Network (SAGWN), with support from Urgent Action Fund – Africa recently distributed 1000 sexual and reproductive health kits for women and girls affected by gender-based violence in the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Chitungwiza and Manyame Districts.

They are targeting to reach over 30 000 vulnerable women and girls in the two districts.

Clara Makwara, the Director of SAGWN said they conducted a mapping exercise on the impact of Covid-19 on women and girls in the two districts and the results revealed that the major feminized Covid-19 challenges include increasing cases of domestic violence perpetrated against women and girls while divorce cases are on the rising trend.

“There are increasing cases of abuse and exploitation of young women and girls recorded by Survivors in Action in 2021 while cases of early child marriages and teen unwanted pregnancies were noted and recorded. Grassroots women reported that they are facing increasing childcare responsibilities while attributing increasing cases of domestic violence to food and income security at the household level.

“Men were reportedly spending more time at home in the wake of Covid-19 – a situation also increasing the cases of domestic violence,” she said.

She said the mapping survey revealed that women and girls in Chitungwiza are practicing primary and secondary caregiving responsibilities without adequate training, primary caregiver kits, and other protective equipment thereby risking their lives. Caregivers are lacking not only caregiver training but also face masks, sanitizers, gloves, and protective clothing.

“Women and girls have reported increasing cases of sexual exploitation amongst poor girls and young women who are engaging in transactional sex with resourceful men, water barons, water marshals, and politicians as they try to overcome the COVID-19 economic hardships. Girls and young women are being lured into transactional sex in exchange for money, basic food items, face masks, handwashing soaps, water buckets, reproductive health kits, and water access. The mapping exercise revealed that women and girls affected by COVID-19, continue to be exposed to HIV/AIDS infection as they lack sexual and reproductive health information and services,” Makwara added.

Some women and girls who received this donation had this to say:

“I’m quite elated because I used to rely on other unconventional methods such as tissue paper and rags during my menstrual days therefore this donation will go a long way and support my sexual reproductive health. I used to have blisters on my private parts and thighs due to infections caused by the rags that I used to rely on,” said Tsitsi Mutero of Manyame Park.

Memory Zizhou (18) of Gatsi Village in Seke said sanitary ware is very expensive and one requires over US$2 per month.

“Depending on the amount of flow and number of girls in a family, more money might be required to purchase sanitary wear. For example, a family of five might need to fork out US$10 or more but due to harsh economic conditions in the country, the majority of families cannot afford it, especially the girls from the rural set-up. We end up using rags and some pieces from blanket material which we wash and reuse again. When those rags are not properly washed due to water crisis we end up developing cervical infections she said.

Regis Manjoro the Programs Manager for SAGWN said emergency support intervention needs to be instituted in order to curb the continued abuse, sexual exploitation and violation of women and girls’ rights.

“We are targeting to distribute over 30 000 sanitary wear emergency kits to members of the public. Recently, we distributed 1000 to women and girls in Chitungwiza and Manyame districts respectively. The majority of primary and secondary caregivers require emergency support in form of caregivers training, primary caregiver kits (buckets, gloves, laundry soaps, sanitisers, vaseline, and face masks), leadership and advocacy training for women, women’s rights awareness campaigns, counselling, and psychosocial support, women’s rights advocacy campaigns targeting policy and budget makers,” he said.

He said, the Mapping Survey also revealed that sexual and reproductive health rights information dissemination and support (in form of sanitary pads, towels, vaseline, girls’ panties, and cotton wool) are critical in overcoming transactional sex and sexual exploitation of poor women and girls affected and infected by COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Mr. Manjoro said the organization has developed and adopted a five Point Emergency Response Strategy aimed at curbing the continued women and girls’ exposure to COVID-19 infection through caregiving, curbing continued sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls, and reducing women’s exposure to all forms of violence in the context of COVID-19 in Chitungwiza and Manyame Districts of Zimbabwe. The 5 Point Strategy involves:

 

  • Emergency Physical and Virtual Counseling and Psychosocial Support for Women and Girls – women and girls who are victims and survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse will be reached through emergency counselling and psychosocial support so that they can heal, rehabilitate and rebuild their lives going forward.

 

  • Emergency Primary Caregiver/Reproductive Health Kits Support for Women and Girls – women and girls will be supported with emergency Primary Caregiver/Reproductive Kits items including Water Buckets, Sanitary Pads, Cotton Wool, Bath Soaps, Laundry Soaps and Vaseline. Primary caregiver kits and reproductive kits are expected to curb the continued exposure of women and girls to sexual exploitation, abuse, and transactional sex.

 

 

  • Hosting Emergency TOT Leadership and Advocacy Workshops for Mentor Caregivers – The Organization will impart leadership, community facilitation, public speaking, stakeholders’ engagement, confidence building and advocacy skills to Mentor Caregivers from Chitungwiza and Manyame Districts. Mentor caregivers will be empowered to take up decision making, policy making and budget making roles so that they can begin to influence women friendly budgeting, policies, change of practices and perceptions and influence prioritization of women issues in all community developmental programs.

 

  • Organizing 2 Emergency Women’s Rights Promotion and Protection Advocacy Campaigns – The Organization will organize 2 Emergency Districts Summits on Women’s Rights Promotion and Protection during the COVID-19 Disaster and Beyond. Grassroots women will have the opportunity to present and articulate challenges women and girls are facing during the COVID-19 Pandemic and want redressed as a matter of urgency to ensure the safety of women and fulfillment of their Constitutional Rights. The 2 Emergency District Summits are targeting reaching out and transforming Policy Makers, Law Enforcement Agents, Budget Makers, Decision Makers, and Traditional Leaders. Stakeholders will jointly plan strategies with the active participation and involvement of women in order to influence change in policies, budgets, practices, attitudes, and perceptions.

 

 

  • Conducting Emergency Media Outreach Campaigns on Women’s Rights Protection During Disasters – The Organization intends to conduct Emergency Radio, Television, Newspaper, and Social Media Campaigns on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Violence perpetrated against women and girls during the COVID-19 Disaster. Radio, Television, Newspapers, and other Social Media Campaigns are aimed at changing the public perceptions, practices, opinions, and belief systems that perpetuate gender-based violence against women and girls during emergencies and disasters.

 

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende