16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence Press Statement

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
Chairperson

FAWEZI appeals, to all Zimbabweans to follow all health and other guidelines to fight against COVID-19.



Creating safe spaces for girls during COVID-19

By Michele Munatswa, Information and Communications Officer, Forum for African Women Educationalists Zimbabwe (FAWEZI) Chapter

“I had lost all hope as I witnessed my parents fight physically and verbally daily during the COVID19 induced National lockdown with no one to talk to.  I started having nightmares and suffered from depression and to escape my reality l started smoking drugs.  These are the words of sixteen-year-old Natasha (not real name) from a Secondary School in Shamvaistrict.

 

“I am glad schools reopened in August 2021 and I started attending the Tuseme/ Speak out club at our school supported by the Forum for African Women Educationalists Zimbabwe (FAWEZI) Chapter where I got to discover that I was not the only one going through cases of domestic violence in my society,” continued Natasha.

 

Natasha is among many girls who have normalized taking drugs as there are many drug selling points in the mining community she is from and there are no restrictions even to children.  People from nearby towns come to sell drugs to the miners thus exposing the children to bad behavior.

 

“It’s easy to access the bronco, glue and what we call mutoriro in my community as drug dealers are flooding the mining community.  Most adults get intoxicated before going to the mine site to work as they say it makes them forget their troubles and gives them a little extra strength to dig as they look for gold,” Narrated Natasha.

 

Natasha said she too would forget her problems soon after talking the drugs.  “The drugs weighed off my problems after taking them, but stress came back again the moment will be sobber,” she added.

Through attending the TUSEME club sessions, Natasha realised that drugs did not provide a permanent solution and she said she has since stopped taking them.

 

During the Tuseme club meetings, girls and boys take time to discuss issues affecting them at home, in the community and even at school.  They try to come up with innovative ideas to solve the problems on their own.  In terms of challenges that the TUSEME club members cannot solve by themselves, the teacher mentors always come in to support the plan of action.

 

“I learnt that if you share with others your problem will be solved.  I have since stopped taking drugs and have resorted to concentrating on my schoolwork.  Through referral to the Department of Social warfare my family received counselling and my father and mother no longer fight in front of us,” stated Natasha.

 

The Tuseme club has served as a safe space for over 350 adolescent girls and boys in 10 project schools in Shamva and Chitungwiza District where issues of confidentiality are prioritized.

The Tuseme club members use theatre-based approaches to express and to take action for gender equality and academic development in their schools and communities. It encourages the development of life skills, self-confidence and leadership skills in all the club members.ost teachers at the project schools applaud the clubs saying they have been helpful in helping learners speak out against challenges they are facing at school.

 

“There has been an increase in reports on violence, and referrals for further assistance at our school, due to the influence of the Tuseme club members,” said Ms. Ernet Tini, a teacher and Tuseme/Speak Out club mentor at Madziwa Mine Secondary School.

 

Tuseme (‘Let Us Speak Out’in Kiswahili) enables female youth empowerment and gender awareness by enhancing girls’ self-esteem, leadership, social and life skills, and promotes a positive attitude amongst boys towards girls’ education.  The model has proven to  Improve girls’ self-esteem and, in their leadership, social and life skills, creates positive teachers’ attitude towards girls and significantly reduce sexual harassment.

he “Towards Resilient Communities with Health, Equity  and Safety for all ( TORCHES) project which is being implemented by FAWEZI in partnership with Action Aid Zimbabwe (AAZ), Family Aids Counselling Trust (FACT) and Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe (LCDZ).  It is  aimed  at creating communities where women and girls are free from violence and have amplified voices and agency.

 

The TORCHES programme is using a whole community approach to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG) and amplify girls’ voices.  This approach is using a gender-power analysis through school-based initiatives like Tuseme and community mobilisation activities to challenge the root causes of inequality for women and girls and high rates of VAWG.

 

Reduced gender-based violence as men participate in the redistribution of chores in the home

By Michele Munatswa, Information and Communication Officer – Forum for African Women Educationalists Zimbabwe (FAWEZI) Chapter

“When everyone understands that we all have power within, then it will be easy to achieve gender equality and equity. It becomes easy to share chores at home so that the burden of unpaid care work is not mostly affecting women,” says a 39-year-old man, Graster Ngandu from Shamva District in Zimbabwe.

 

Although Ngandu is a Village head and highly respected in his community, he helps his wife with household chores and looks after their two children when she is away. Since he works close to their homestead compared to the wife who works further from his home, Ngandu is usually the one who prepares the children for their next day of school. He makes sure they have clean uniforms and have done their homework.

 

According to the local societal gender stereotypes, a village head is a respected traditional leader in Zimbabwe who should not do household chores, usually delegated to women.

 

“Things where never like this before, I used to think house chores were meant for a woman and helping a woman meant I was not man enough. However, since I was trained as a SASA Together leader under the Towards Resilient Communities with Health, Equity  and Safety for all ( TORCHES) project in Zimbabwe in June 2021 my perceptions have since changed,” said Ngandu.

 

The SASA! Together is a community mobilisation approach being used in  preventing Violence Against women and Girls (VAWG) and  it is based on the analysis and understanding of power imbalances as the root cause of VAWG.

“I now know my wife needs my support to positively contribute to the development of our family and that violence does not solve anything. I am now cascading the SASA Together model to the rest of the community members,” continued Ngandu.

 

“SASA! Together means NOW, meaning now is the time to address issues of unpaid carework,VAWG, gender equality and equity in the community. It is time to challenge the root causes of inequality for women and girls  for safer commuinities,” said Ngandu.

Ngandu is one of the twenty-four community champions and leaders who have been trained under the SASA Together methodology in Shamva. These individuals conduct regular activities among family, friends and neighbours and others to spark reflection, dialogue, and action as well as commit to working on themselves- balancing power in their own relationships and lives.

 

Ngandu is currently facing resistance from his family and community for doing chores which are meant for women. Some of the men in his community say he has been bewitched by his wife. A few question his leadership and say he has grown soft however Ngandu is determined to break the gender stereotype in his community and restore balance of power between men and women.

 

“As I conduct my sessions, I have realised that both men and women have power within them. However, there is need for individuals to exercises their power positively without taking advantage of it.”

 

“With the knowledge I have, I want to reach everyone in my community so that everyone despite their sex, race and age are aware of their rights and how to exercise their power within without violating other’s rights. This will help in reducing cases of VAWG in the household and the community as everyone will be an equal partner with rights to be upheld,” said Ngandu.

 

The TORCHES project which is being implemented by the Forum for African Women Educationalists Zimbabwe Chapter  (FAWEZ) in partnership with Action Aid Zimbabwe (AAZ), Family Aids Counselling Trust (FACT) and Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe (LCDZ) is using two methodologies of the Tuseme/ Speak out and the SASA! Together. The project is funded by the Peoples Postcode Lottery through Action Aid Zimbabwe and is being implemented in Shamva, Chitungwiza and Nyanga Districts.

 

Dialogues on SRHR and Radio talk shows on VAWG and SRHR.

FAWEZI conducted zoom dialogues on the 30th and 31st of July with adolescent girls in Chitungwiza and Shamva to  schools to discuss topics around menstrual hygiene management, Violence Against Women Girls (VAWG)  and Sexual Reproduction Health Reproductive (SRHR)  issues in light of the current COVID 19 lockdown. The girls outlined challenges they were facing which include, teenage pregnancies even among examination candidates, child marriages, lack of water and economic hardships which is combined with rising prices of sanitary pads. Most adolescent girls yearned on how they are facing economic hardships as they are no longer able to perform their income generating activities due to the imposed COVID 19 strict regulations like vending. Subsequently FAWEZI took up the conversation to national radio platform Issues Panenyaya . The aim was to engage more stakeholders whilst also targeting decision makers in the discussion on the issues affecting the girls.

School Codes of conduct planning meetings –Shamva and Chitungwiza

FAWEZI held codes of conduct planning meetings on the 31st of August in Shamva with 5 project schools and on the 11 of September in Chitungwiza. The aim of the meetings was to equip the core teams with knowledge on how to develop school level Codes of Conduct in line with existing national and International laws and policies.  The meeting was attended by representatives from the District Office, school heads and project link teachers. FAWEZI engaged a legal resource person to give guidance to drafting an effective Code of Conduct.

SRGBV Referral pathway meetings in Chitungwiza and Shamva

On the 25th  and 31st   of August ,FAWEZI  facilitated  School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV)  referral pathway meetings between   school heads from  project schools  and the CSO’s working in the Shamva and Chitungwiza  Districts.  The meetings were to connect the schools to the service providers and also establish the existing referral pathways in relation to SRGBV. The schools managed to map the services that are at their disposal and also recommend further relations between the schools and the CSO’s.

 

Arming HER with skills for the work place

Today the Forum for African Women Educationalists – Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI) joined in the  observance of  the International Day of the Girl Child (IDCG) under the theme ‘With Her: A Skilled Girl Force’.  October 11 was declared the International Day of the Girl Child by the United Nations General Assembly On December 19, 2011 with the  day being set aside to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.

As we observe IDCG for FAWEZI it is not only about remembering girls’ access to education, staying in school and completing education but also about preparing them to enter the world of work  inline with the 2018 IDCG theme ‘With Her: A Skilled Girl Force ‘.

Our girls today are growing up in an environment which is fraught with challenges and uncertainties. It is amid these uncertainties that they strive to access education, stay in school and complete their studies. As we remember our girls this year we urge all educational institutions to bear in mind that the fight for the education of the girl child is not a discriminatory issue. While we have reached parity in access to education, the completion rate of girls beyond the second year of secondary education is low. This is where most learners begin to think about careers and their areas of interest in terms of professions. This is where we begin to lose the participation of girls in issues of development.

It is against such a background that as an organisation we seek to advocate for and support the participation and performance of girls in the ‘21st century skills’ which include Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Arts and ICT. We are of the belief that if the barriers to their participation in these areas are broken from school level the results will be more females in the related industries which will also produce more female role models for the girls back in school. We believe that girls can achieve their opportunities if they do no not face gender based discrimination.

As Zimbabwe we have a very supportive environment and policies which encourage the education of the girl child. Partnerships and collaborations between Civil Society Organisations and the public sector to make the necessary interventions to increase girls’ access to education, staying in school and completing.

It is our desire that every girl child in Zimbabwe accesses and completes a basic education which will position her to be of meaningful contribution in her society. In relation to the IDCG2018 theme we call upon women who are in different sectors to take part in empowering the girl child through mentorship and career guidance so that we jointly create a future skilled female workforce. This however can also be achieved by tackling gender stereotypes across professions and addressing the many systemic barriers faced by girls and women.

On the IDCG we also emphasize on the need to intervene on the plight of the girls who face various socioeconomic difficulties evidenced by child marriages, forced marriages, sexual harassment, emotional abuse, child labour, human trafficking and unemployment among others.

Over and above all we call upon the government of Zimbabwe to continue the efforts of prioritising education financing and create an enabling environment for Civil Society Organisations working to support education in Zimbabwe.

FAWEZI is a non-governmental organisation established in 1998 and registered as a private voluntary organisation in 1999. Since the organisation has worked with communities, schools, civil society, non-governmental organizations and ministries to achieve gender equity and equality in education through targeted programs. Its work influences government policy, builds public awareness, demonstrates best educational practice through effective models, and encourages the adoption of these models by governments and institutions of education.