Zimbabwe Launches Safe Spaces for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence 

Zimbabwe has launched eight safe spaces for GBV survivors in Manicaland Province, with the support of the UN and the EU, under the Spotlight Initiative programme.

by Motoni Olodun

Zimbabwe has established eight safe spaces for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in Manicaland Province, as part of its efforts to end the scourge that affects one in three women in the country. The safe spaces, which include three shelters and five one-stop-centres, were launched yesterday by the Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Monica Mutsvangwa, at Hauna Growth Point in Mutasa District.

The launch coincided with the national commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism against GBV, an annual global campaign that runs from November 25 to December 10, to raise awareness and mobilize action to prevent and respond to GBV. This year’s theme is “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and children”.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the safe spaces were established with the support of the United Nations and the European Union, under the Global Spotlight Initiative programme, which aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. The programme is being implemented in six districts in Manicaland Province, where GBV and child marriages are prevalent.

According to the 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 34 per cent of girls in Zimbabwe are married before the age of 18, and five per cent are married before their 15th birthday, in contrast with 2 per cent of boys in Zimbabwe married before their 18th birthday. The survey also revealed that persons with disabilities are at greater risk of GBV, especially women and girls with disabilities, who are three times more prone to GBV and harmful practices.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the Government was committed to ending GBV and harmful practices in all its forms and had put in place various policy measures and strategies to address the issue. She cited the signing and launch of the high-level political compact on ending GBV and harmful practices in Zimbabwe by President Mnangagwa, together with other stakeholders, as evidence of the country’s resolve to end the pandemic.

She also highlighted the legal framework that protects the rights of women and girls, such as the Constitution, which sets the minimum age of marriage at 18, and the Marriages Act, which criminalises child marriages. She added that the minimum mandatory sentencing for convicted rape perpetrators had been set at 15 years, a great stride towards justice delivery.

She appealed to the traditional and religious leaders, as well as the media, to play a pivotal role in preventing GBV and harmful practices, by challenging the social norms and beliefs that perpetuate them. She urged society to be alert and expose the criminals that rob children of their future, and ensure that they are brought to justice.

The Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Advocate Misheck Mugadza, said the province had a fair share of incidences of GBV, with child marriages being more pronounced and a cause for concern. He said hosting the event in the province would go a long way in raising awareness and mobilising action against the two menaces in the province.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon, said the UN and other UN agencies in the country would continue to initiate programmes that help build the capacities of communities to be able to prevent and respond to cases of GBV. He said interventions like safe shelters and one-stop-centres were critical in ensuring sustainable means of preventing and responding to GBV.

The launch of the safe spaces was attended by various stakeholders, including government officials, civil society organisations, traditional and religious leaders, and GBV survivors. The event also featured testimonies from GBV survivors, who shared their experiences and how they benefited from the safe spaces. The survivors expressed their gratitude to the Government and its partners for providing them with the necessary support and services to rebuild their lives.

The event ended with a call to action for all stakeholders to unite and invest in ending GBV and harmful practices in Zimbabwe, and to create a safe and conducive environment for women and girls to thrive and contribute to the development of the country.

Source: The Herald


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