Letters to the Editor: Creating safe spaces for all beyond 16 days of activism

The Chronicle

Andile Tshuma, Correspondent

Gender-based violence continues to be an unfortunate harsh reality of everyday life for many Zimbabwean women, and a lot of men too. 

Conversations at corporate events, social circles and other spheres of life have been bordering on ending gender-based violence and equal treatment for all.

The advocacy and support for the elimination of gender-based violence should be a 365-day task and not just the16 days of activism.

Creating safe spaces for all and fighting in unity to end GBV should be on everyone’s diary every day. It should not be an event but a culture. 

In an effort to champion gender equality and advocate for the elimination of GBV in our communities, Government must prioritise and implement the various recommendations made to reduce and eliminate GBV in all of its forms. 

There should be a clear commitment to fostering better working relationships between Government, private and civil society actors towards maximising collective impact in eradicating the root causes of GBV. 

All Zimbabweans must reflect on their own complicity in maintaining the culture of violence and abuse, make the necessary behavioural and attitudinal shifts and commit to standing together to safeguard communities against these vicious cycles of abuse.

Government through the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, has made great strides in popularising the Domestic Violence Act and awareness campaigns in communities on gender-based violence through the 4Ps campaign — that is, prevention, protection, programmes and participation. 

I however feel that dropping Gender in the Ministry’s name excludes men. The ministry used to be called the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development. 

I understand we are still within a patriarchal society and efforts are being made to uplift women but we must guard against matriarchy. 

Despite the numerous progressive policies, GBV remains a major social, health, economic and cultural problem. Over the years, there have been many positive responses about the impact of the 16 Days campaigns, yet there has been no significant decrease in GBV and related forms of violence. 

The raised awareness is yet to translate to behavioural change that is necessary to stop GBV. It is clear, we live in a country where gender-based violence is pervasive.

Advancing gender equality and dismantling patriarchy in Zimbabwe must therefore go beyond awareness to include radically transforming those systems and institutions that produce and reproduce unequal power relations.

The law must continue to protect women and men from abuse and must uphold equal treatment of victims of gender-based violence. 

It is also important to ensure that no custom, tradition or religious tenet is used to justify gender-based violence. Full and sustained funding must be availed to ensure adequate implementation of polices and progammes to fight gender-based violence so that indeed there is peace in the homes and communities.

In most countries including Zimbabwe, navigating the justice system is complex and tedious hence many victims of gender-based violence end up withdrawing their cases before they reach court.

 A few cases result in conviction. In most cases, women withdraw cases due to lack of knowledge of their rights and in some cases the perpetrators are the families breadwinners.

Activism against gender-based violence is a mix of constant resistance and resilience. Efforts must be made from all spheres and society must fight in unison to end the vice. 

Gender-based violence is embedded in our societies and we must work to address it every day.

Awareness alone cannot create change, it is actions that create change and it is the duty of every member of society to bring about this change. 

A lot can be done to help create awareness and go beyond the marches. 

The Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) rolled out an action-packed 16-day programme meant to create awareness on gender-based violence.

The annual international campaign which was this year held under the theme: “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape” saw WILD partnering with Intwasa, National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe and Victory Siyanqoba to provide free arts activities around the city.

WILD communications manager, Mr Mthokozisi Ndebele said instead of the monotonous marches to commemorate the day, they saw it fit to bring a new arts twist to the campaign.

Government should work with its partners to ensure that there is enough funding to cater for GBV awareness programmes. 

The European Union (EU) in May came up with a €20 million initiative to fight gender-based violence and enhance promotion of women’s rights in Zimbabwe. Hopefully, this fund will go a long way in funding programmes that will help victims of GBV. 

It should be everyone’s duty to fight GBV and promote harmonious peaceful environment because peace at home is peace to the world. @andile_tshuma