In rural Buhera, about 300 kilometres southeast of Zimbabwe's capital Harare, many women face domestic violence and say that hunger is fuelling the situation.
By Robert Tapfumaneyi
While the rest of the world joined hands in commemorating 16 days of activism against gender based violence at the end of last year, the Zimbabwean government went a step further by calling for 365 days against such barbaric acts against women and girls.
But reality tells a different story. In rural Buhera, about 300 kilometres southeast of the capital Harare, many women are living in very difficult situations where domestic violence has become their daily bread. A recent visit to the area found most women interviewed saying that hunger is the major cause of domestic violence in this district.
Tsitsi Wasara, who is living with HIV, says her situation and that of other women is very bad. “Discrimination in this area is still rampant and most of the people here are still in denial. To make matters worse there is a lot of food shortages and arguments, leading to domestic fights between husband and wife; [it] is the order of the day. If men had something to do in the fields the situation could have been different.”
Her sentiments were echoed by fellow villager Irene Bepura. She says if the area could receive enough rainfall men would spend most of their time in the field producing for their families and the situation would be different.
“My husband does not go to work and most of the time we argue about the quantity of food to be cooked and the end result is fighting in front of the children,” says Irene.
Irene is a member of a support group which gets help from a non governmental organisation that supports women facing domestic violence, the Musasa Project Zimbabwe. As members of the group, Irene and her peers educate each other and share information about domestic violence.
“We encourage each and every women to be involved in income generating project such as poultry and gardening to supplement the little harvest that is coming from our fields. If both the wife and husband become productive it saves a lot of [bad] situations here,” says Irene.
Villager Yamurai Mamombe believes the programmes that the Musasa Project carry out are brining down cases of domestic violence.
“In my village most men spend most of their time drinking home brewed beer, which is so cheap, because they don’t have anything to do most of the time. But thumbs-up to programmes that are being carried out by organisations such as Musasa, where most women are trained and given information about domestic violence and how best it can be avoided, and most men have accepted it as well hence this has brought love in many families,” said Yamurai.
As hunger tolls in Buhera, villagers often end up selling their livestock and other valuable assets in order to sustain their families.
Village headman Mutangi Tarwira Mundawarara said: “We did not get or harvest anything in the previous season; the rains disappeared when the maize was at tussling stage and my villagers ended up travelling to far areas where they buy a maize bucket for $3 because locally it is being sold at $7 to $8.”
Zimbabwe expected to harvest 1 million tones of maize in the 2011/12 cropping season, a decline in output from previous years of 33%. The nation requires 1,384,000 tonnes of grain for human consumption and 350,000 tonnes for livestock and other uses and the shortfall leaves the country with a deficit of nearly 1 million tonnes. Finance Minister Tendai Biti said the deficit will be covered by the country’s grain reserves of 500,000 tonnes plus imports from Zambia and the donor community. This will guarantee the country enough food for 2013.
The Musasa Project was established in May 1988 due to growing concern about the high levels of violence women were facing, particularly in domestic settings, and the lack of support for women. Musasa responds to all forms of trauma experienced by women at the hands of male perpetrators and provides temporary places of safety for women who are in crisis. As well as helping local support groups it trains women to become counsellors so they are better able to support other women experiencing domestic violence.