Engaging communities in reducing Violence Against Women and Girls
Forum for African Women Educationalists Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI) joins the rest of the world in commemorating 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence (GBV). This is an annual international campaign that kicks off today, the 25th of November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, VAW), and runs until the 10th of December, (Human Rights Day). This year`s commemorations are running under the global theme, “Orange the world: End Violence Against Women Now”.
This year’s theme emphasizes the urgency of ending GBV and VAW and that can only be achieved when communities collectively work together. This is crucial especially now as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects since 2020. It is vital to emphasize that GBV and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) were a global problem well before the COVID-19 pandemic. For a very long time now, the world has been struggling to end GBV and VAWG in all their manifestations including marital rape, intimate partner violence, child marriages, sexual harassment, virginity testing, genital mutilation, name calling and body-shaming among others. Indeed, GBV and VAWG have been common in our homes, educational institutions, the streets and other public spaces such as recreational centers, workplaces and even churches.
These 16 days provide an opportunity for individuals, government entities and institutions, working towards eliminating GBV and all other forms of VAWG, to accelerate their efforts by jointly reflecting and consolidating past achievements and also mapping the best way forward. It is indeed a time to amplify voices in increasing awareness and stimulating advocacy efforts towards eliminating GBV and VAWG.
As an organisation that has been supporting efforts to eliminate gender disparities in education in Zimbabwe since 1998, FAWEZI continues to complement government efforts in reducing School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV). Through a partnership with ActionAid Zimbabwe, Family Aids Counselling Trust (FACT) and Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe (LCDZ), FAWEZI is raising awareness in schools and communities on reducing and responding to SRGBV, VAWG and VAC. The partnership is under the Towards Resilient Communities with Health, Equity and Safety for all (TORCHES) project.
The project is being implimented in Shamva, Chitungwiza and Nyanga districts. It aims at creating communities where women and girls are free from violence and have amplified voices and agency. The project is using a whole community approach to prevent VAWG and amplify girls’ voices. This approach is using a gender-power analysis through school-based and community mobilisation activities to challenge the root causes of inequality for women and girls, and high rates of VAWG. In engaging the communities, the partners are using the SASA! Together model while the Tuseme/Speak Out girls empowerment model is being used in schools.
SASA! Together is a community mobilisation approach to preventing VAWG and the spread of HIV. This methodology is based on the analysis and understanding of power imbalance as the root cause of VAWG. SASA! Together works through four phases (start, awareness, support, action), and uses a community-led approach to support the whole community to act on VAWG. Currently, the consortium is implementing the Start phase. The Tuseme/Speak out model uses theatre-based approaches to support girls and boys to take action for gender equality and academic development in their schools and communities, as well as encouraging the development of life skills, self-confidence and leadership skills.
As FAWEZI, we celebrate gains achieved so far through our programming and we are committed to continue our work in contributing to the reduction of all forms of VAWG in schools and communities. We also delight in celebrating gains made so far in our nation to eliminate all forms of VAWG. This year, we celebrate the tremendous efforts by the Government of Zimbabwe and several organizations in prioritizing this matter through milestone achievements including, among others:
• A Constitution with elaborate and comprehensive provisions for the right to dignity, personal security and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment (Section 51 and Section 52);
• Adoption of international standards and best practices as provided in international and regional instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Sustainable Development Goals, the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa;
• Enactment of the Domestic Violence Act as well as the establishment of the Anti‐ Domestic Violence Council which supports the realization of its mandate and objectives.;
• A National Gender Policy with a dedicated thematic area on Gender Based Violence within schools;
• Education Amendment Act which prohibits corporal punishment and the exclusion of pregnant girls from school in accordance with the Zimbabwe Constitution, and that guarantees the right to education.
While all these steps are indeed progressive and commendable, FAWEZI takes this opportunity to:
• Call upon government to speed up the enactment of a comprehensive legislative framework to deal with SGBV in general, and sexual harassment in particular;
• Call upon government to priorities the implementation of the Education Amendment Act and its alignment [Chapter 25:04] to the Constitution;
• Call upon the judicial system to give punitive and deterrent jail sentences to perpetrators of rape and all other forms of sexual offences including sexual harassment and child marriages, among others;
• Appeal to government and other stakeholders to strengthen GBV response mechanisms such as access to justice, health and psycho-social support;
• Call upon survivors, and the community at large, to speak out and report all forms of GBV to the police and seek medical and emotional support from experts around them.
Dr Ruth Gora
FAWEZI appeals, to all Zimbabweans to follow all health and other guidelines to fight against COVID-19.