By Joyce Mukucha
In pursuit of ending gender-based violence (GBV) in communities during the lockdown, Someone Always Listens To-you (SALT) Africa, a local organisation that focuses on mental health, is making huge strides in offering assistance to GBV victims and survivors through a cocktail of measures to ensure that this scourge does not escalate.
SALT has set aside a telephone line specifically dedicated to crisis calls such as GBV, stress, anxiety, AND grief among other crises.
Where counselling and therapy are needed, SALT Africa is providing the services as well.
In an interview, SALT Africa founder, Tafadzwa Mugazambi-Meki said though her organisation was guided by the drive to embrace homegrown solutions to mental health issues, they were committed to helping to curb GBV which has spiked during the lockdown.
She said SALT Africa’s main objective is mental health and GBV is one of the many aspects that are closely intertwined with mental health. As such counselling, therapy, and mental wellness interventions are offered to survivors.
“We have put aside a dedicated crisis line specifically for counselling with registered experts awaiting members of the public to come through with queries. They are more than welcome to call and even send messages. We have dedicated registered counsellors and psychologists volunteering at SALT Africa and we’re ready to assist.
“Since we are a mental organisation, where we can not offer assistance, we have a duty to refer be it in cases of institutionalisation or a safe house are needed . Other cases we refer to Victim Friendly Unit,” she said.
Meki articulated that marginalised and vulnerable groups were not being left out in as much as preventing GBV is concerned therefore, SALT Africa was spearheading a program aimed at gathering real life stories from rural communities.
In the first wave of Covid-19 last year, SALT Africa had lockdown Chronicles and spearheaded a lockdown diary series where issues that were happening in marginalised communities were dramatised.
Supporting the programme, SALT Africa has resumed the Lockdown Chronicles on YouTube which is a platform where challenges faced by rural women and girls are presented in the form of skits.
“By gathering real life stories from rural communities SALT Africa has resumed the Lockdown Chronicles on YouTube which is a platform where challenges faced by rural women and girls are presented in the form of skits. Likewise, beginning of February we have put in place a public announcement system which will accelerate information dissemination at grassroot level.”
However, she said, rural interaction was a big challenge because of Coronavirus regulations and lockdown restrictions because face to face interactions were becoming a hazard to both information disseminators and the recipients.
“We don’t want to endanger anyone. So we have been in contact with local leadership of various communities. We will use a public announcement system as we go to village by village within that area so that they have an awareness and some form of recognition. It seems like it’s only being said on radio and other platforms and nothing much has been done to figure out what these people are going through and how they are coping.”
She said SALT Africa will be partnering with other organisations on spearheading programmes that will enable to continue identifying and supporting survivors despite lockdown as well as ensuring that victims and survivors access safer places especially when it comes to reaching out rural villages.
She highlighted that SALT Africa was also aimed at sending a message to other organisations to chip in and to work in line with the data received from the ground.
“If the organisation becomes successful in making sure recipients receive the efforts positively then we will cascade in partnership with other organisations to the wider spectrum of rural areas in Zimbabwe. We believe teamwork makes dream work and now more than ever it is imperative that organisations work together for the greater good of the people,” Meki said.
This February, SALT Africa will be resuming season 2 of the Lockdown Series which helped over 500 viewers who participated in the first season.
Taking into consideration that Covid-19 might be long lasting, Meki said it was imperative for the government to continuously and tirelessly engage in SMART sustainable solutions and focused interventions which ought to be implimented effectively from district level right to the household level.
“Government intervention is crucial. I’m pretty sure they have an action plan in place and some of the work has been implimented. What I would like to urge them is not only looking at the physical aspect of Coronavirus, lockdown, regulations and how to curb the spread of the virus. I personally feel that if you do not receive adequate information and if you feel like you have been sidelined with regards to information dissemination in most cases be it Covid-19 be it a natural disaster or natural system warning the human mind tends to lax and not act upon what is being instructed to do.
“So I would like to encourage government to engage implimentors and engage grassroot levels with more information dissemination as interactive and as informed possible from the grassroot level so that there is acceptance and retainment from the supposed recipients of the information and those who are supposed to help in curbing the spread of coronavirus and also adhering to lockdown regulations.”
The organisation also have social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter where awareness messages are constantly posted.
SALT Africa ,she said, was working on mapping out a way to ensure that those in marginalised communities who do not have access to internet and might not have the capacity to download videos are assisted.
In terms of convicting and prosecuting perpetrators of violence during the pandemic, Meki said some were never brought to book.
The organisation work hand in glove with platforms that offer services for example safe houses and institutionalisation to ensure survivors get required help.
Other organisations such as Musasa Project are also working towards eradicating GBV cases which are escalating during Covid-19 lockdown.
In an interview, Rotina Mafume, an advocacy programme officer with the group said Musasa Project has been working tirelessly to ensure that women and girls receive the services and assistance they require to overcome abuse during these unprecedented times.
Musasa Project has toll free lines where women and girls can communicate through and seek help when they feel their life is threatened.
“We have free lines open so that we can offer counseling and legal support. Our services are available 24/7 so that we can respond to the needs of women in the areas that they will be needing support.
“The organisation is offering services aimed at encouraging partners to communicate freely in a respectful way resolve conflicts amicably,” she said.