16 Days: Fighting sexual violence in Zimbabwe

"We are satisfied with the outcome of the recommendations as they speak to the immediate and long term solutions. We are also satisfied with the openness – talking [about] all aspect of rape and sexual violence – and I think for me it’s important that we have broken the culture of silence, especially among women.”

 

“We are satisfied with the outcome of the recommendations as they speak to the immediate and long term solutions. We are also satisfied with the openness – talking [about] all aspect of rape and sexual violence – and I think for me it’s important that we have broken the culture of silence, especially among women.”

These where the words of Netty Musanhu, the director of Musasa Project, an Zimbabwe organisation for women facing gender based violence, at a just ended two-day conference held in Harare.

The objective of the conference was to raise the issues of rape and sexual violence against women and girls onto the national agenda. The two day conference was attended by women from various organisations, traditional chiefs, different government departments and delegates from outside Zimbabwe.

“As we move towards referendum and elections we have seen cases of violence going up, so what we are trying to do is call upon policy makers to ensure that they put in place mechanisms of protection and prevention, and just tell people out there that any form of violence against women has no place in Zimbabwe,” Musanhu said.

Musanhu said she was “happy with the commitment…from traditional leaders who graced this conference as they have made a promise to speak about any form of violence against women so that they will have violent free communities.”

Women from Kenya shared their experiences and advised how Zimbabwean women can take advantage of constitutional reform process to ensure that issues of safety and security for women are in the draft constitution. They also offered strategies as to how women can respond to and prevent sexual violence. Musasa particularly praised Atsango Chesoni from Kenya’s Human Rights Commission for sharing many examples of what has occurred in Kenya, which she said could be used in Zimbabwe “so that women [can] live in a violence free environment.”

The gathering also identified gaps at the attorney general’s office, especially the challenges they are facing in dealing with cases that involve women such as shortages of work force and the time trials can take.

Netherlands ambassador Barbara Joziasse described the conference as “a historic moment for women in Zimbabwe as the silence has been broken.”

She added: “Sexual violence is now on the agenda. The government and non-governmental organisation institutions… political parties and civil societies were all involved, and agreed that sexual violence against women is a problem. So acknowledging that fact was very important and a task force has been set as one of the way forwards.”

Joziasse added that conference delegates have agreed that awareness of sexual violence should be in the school curriculum as a topic at both the primary and secondary school level so that children can be more aware of it.

Before the conference, Musasa project held a three day gender fair at Harare’s Africa Unity Square where various organisations exhibited support services relating to gender based violence (GBV) to provide an opportunity for close interaction between communities and GBV organisations.

This year’s 16 Days of Activism Against GBV are being commemorated under the theme From peace in the home to peace in our communities.

The increasing number of domestic violence is a wakeup call for every Zimbabwean citizen to do something in their communities. Information gathered for 2012 shows that more than 1,500 domestic abuse cases were reported to the Musasa Project alone.

Musasa Project is a non-governmental women’s human rights organization that assists about 3,000 women victims of domestic and sexual violence and women living with HIV.

The Musasa Project is involved in numerous complementary activities to address violence against women. It provides counselling, legal support and refuge to women experiencing violence. The Project conducts public education to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence. The organisation was founded in 1988 by two women concerned about the long-standing problem of sexual and domestic assault in Zimbabwe.

 

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