By Takemore Mazuruse
As Zimbabwe continues to reel under the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant national lockdown passed by government to contain the situation, gender-based violence (GBV) cases are on the rise and Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum on gender with support from Oxfam has initiated various campaigns aimed at containing the situation.
Speaking to Standard Style after a recent GBV and Covid-19 awareness campaign in Phase 1, 2, 3, 4, 12 and 17 of Caledonia, Harare, Padare programmes officer Paul Vingi said the organisation was faced with an uphill task as cases of GBV continue to soar owing to lack of education to pressures brought about by the lockdown and the general economic challenges, hence their ongoing efforts.
“We are operating in a generally difficult period where cases of gender-based violence are on the rise particularly given the pressures of a closed economy as the nation grapples with Covid-19,” Vingi said.
“In some communities, GBV remains a common practice and we are doing all we can to raise awareness and sensitise men and boys on the importance of gender justice and respect for women.
“Our ongoing efforts in Caledonia have pointed to a rise in cases of GBV given the community make-up where sexual exploitation of minors is prevalent and women generally bear the brunt of a patriarchal society.
“Caledonia has high cases of GBV especially child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. Substance and alcohol abuse coupled with limited knowledge of gender rights have also fuelled abuse of women and we are rolling out a number of programmes and initiatives aimed at containing the GBV challenges.”
Wanton disregard of the set-down Covid-19 regulations also remains a challenge and Vingi said it was their hope that working together with Oxfam and other stakeholders, they would help educate the masses and foster behaviour change.
“In Caledonia, some are still taking Covid-19 as a foreign illness, which doesn’t affect the poor and there is minimal compliance to set regulations like putting on masks and social distance,” Vingi said.
“When we got there for the road show awareness campaigns around 6pm hoping to reach more beneficiaries as people are usually indoors by then, we were shocked to see crowds as people roamed freely and shops and vendors operating until as late as 7pm at a joint called Gazebo. They even had a soccer tournament that went for hours on end until a police officer, who accompanied us came to the rescue and stopped the tournament.”
The Caledonia campaign was in partnership with the Goromonzi Rural District Council’s Covid-19 taskforce, which included officials from the National Aids Council, District Administrator’s office, Zimbabwe Republic Police, and the Women Affairs ministry.
Padare has also produced social behaviour change communication materials in the form of 2021 calendars with positive messages to the community and also to raise awareness around gender-based violence and unpaid care work in the targeted communities.
Other community messages in the form of murals will also be designed targeting areas where men and crowds gather.
“We have produced social behaviour change communication materials in the form of calendars with messages against gender-based violence and encouraging male participation in unpaid care work in the homes,” Vingi said.
“We will also design community messages in the form of murals targeting men at water points and markets so that they are abreast with our message of taking part in unpaid care work, loving and supporting their women as well as ending gender-based violence.”
According to Oxfam’s Regis Mtutu (pictured), acting regional women’s rights and gender justice coordinator, most of the perpetrators of GBV are men and working with Padare, which focuses on the involvement of men in the fight for a gender just society is an ideal.
“In as much as men are the main perpetrators of GBV, we also want to view them not only as part of the problem, but as part of the solution,” Mtutu said.
“Padare, given its programme design and scope, is well placed to come in and work with men towards ending GBV so that the work with our other women-focused partners like Musasa Project begins to bear fruit.
“Thanks to the partnership with Padare, men are beginning to take a stand against GBV. We have male gender champions in Caledonia, who are raising awareness and helping address problems related to GBV.”
Mtutu highlighted that Oxfam was also supporting drilling of boreholes and a cash transfer programme targeting vulnerable households with a view to contain some of the triggers of GBV in Caledonia.
“Water in a big issue in Caledonia and women would have challenges at water points and some travelling distances to unprotected sources where men would want to control women access and prey at women and young girls at the water points.,” Mtutu said.