By Joyce Mukucha
As it continues to take strides in fighting Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) through urging women to speak out, Katswe Sistahood has partnered with Trocaire, Plan International, Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Adult Rape Clinic and government of Zimbabwe by hosting a girls and women’s symposium in Epworth.
The gathering which has come at an opportune time during women’s month was aimed at creating a platform for women and girls to engage with different stakeholders and duty bearers on SGBV.
Speaking during the symposium in Epworth on the 13th of March 2020, Katswe Sistahood programmes officer, Ottilia Chinyani said joining a plethora of stakeholders in fighting SGBV at the community level was of paramount importance since violence has become a serious issue which requires a multi-stakeholder approach in curbing it.
The Community Activist, Alfasi Sabudu said they were making tireless efforts with other community activists in teaching women and girls to speak out whenever their rights are violated.
“We are making concerted efforts to promote justice, peace, and dignity of women and girls in society. Our main objective as community activists is to engage women and educate them about the importance of opening out when harassment and any other forms of abuse do happen to them. We are not saying men should not be given their position as heads of the house but our aim is to hammer it in their minds that there should be equality between women and men when it comes to accessing opportunities. Everyone is equal and women must not be abused only because of gender, so we are saying to women and girls, silence is no longer golden, it’s high time to speak out when your rights are violated so that the perpetrators can be dealt with. We want Epworth to become a violence-free society,” he said.
Government and partners are also in the process of setting up a One-Stop Centre for GBV survivors in the same area.
“As the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Small and Medium Enterprise Development we realised that most women and girls are facing challenges to access help after being sexually violated. Therefore we are establishing One-Stop Centres as we are trying to ensure that victims of SGBV are able to be assisted under one roof. People are harmed, physically and mentally thus they need psycho-social support, treatment, and law to take its course as soon as they become victims. In other districts, the One-Stop Centres are now operational and for Epworth, preparations, for establishing one are underway. In addition, there is a need to join hands to ensure that acts of GBV are exposed and dealt with in communities as well as making sure that our women and girls are protected. The ministry is also working together with organisations like Katswe to ensure that women and girls understand the law and how they can apply it when abused,” said the Provincial Development Officer, Mr. Ernest Chimboza.
The Ministry, he said, discovered that poverty was contributing more to violence therefore it was initiating empowerment projects for women and girls which enable them to sustain themselves and desist from dependency syndrome.
Speaking at the same occasion, a Zimbabwe Republic Police officer from Epworth, Constable Gamuchirai Rwasunda said as the Victim Friendly Unit, their role was not only centred on convicting perpetrators of violence but they were also responsible for extending counselling to victims. She said violence was taking place in families between married men and women but females were still living in fear of exposing their husbands.
“We are facing challenges of women who are being abused by their male counterparts and when they come to report, we are directed to open a docket filing a case against the perpetrator. Unfortunately, women are still afraid to place charges against their husbands and others fear to be judged by society. As ZRP, we are encouraging women to stand up and report cases of violence. It is our responsibility to make sure that when women are not willing for their husbands to be detained, and then we warn the husband to stop causing voice because we believe other men might be ignorant.
“Today I also want to encourage women and girls that you should feel free to come and report when sexually abused. The medical affidavit will be written for you so that you get free treatment and your transport is catered for. I want to reiterate that do not suffer quietly, speak out and you have the full support of us as law practitioners,” she said.
Representing churches, Rev Charity Kambarami of Methodist Church in Zimbabwe highlighted that violence does not know the difference between the church and the community. She urged women to stand up, support each other and speak with one voice against SGBV.
“Violence also happens in churches and it is important to have gender policies aimed at dealing with actions of violence especially against women. As the church, we also have programmes meant to empower women and we also extend teachings concerning SGBV,” said Kambarami.
Women participants expressed their gratitude to Katswe Sistahood for organising such platform which gave them an opportunity to interact with different stakeholders airing out their concerns and expectations.
Supporting human rights, they said, particularly women and providing access to justice for females as well as promoting education and awareness was crucial. Others emphasised that organisations must continue making efforts that transform social, cultural and traditional norms that perpetuate gender-based violence through assisting women particularly survivors of GBV to access services and care.