By Shamiso Chigonde
"If we are to fight discrimination and injustice against women we must start from the home for if a woman cannot be safe in her own house then she cannot be expected to feel safe anywhere, " says Aysha Taryam a newspaper editor and writer.
Annual commemorations and advocacy campaigns on Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence kick started on Sunday the 25th of November. More than twenty years after the launch of the campaign, and several policy steps there are still alarmingly high numbers of Zimbabwean women and girls being exposed to various forms of gruesome abuse and violence even during the commemoration period itself.
A case in point is the tragedy that happened on the evening of 25 November 2018 in Gwert, where Tashinga Musonza an army officer allegedly murdered his 32 year old live in girlfriend Lucy Duve. This was after a dispute over a suspected relationship Lucy was said to be having with the perpetrator’s workmate.
According to the police Tashinga Musonza and Lucy Dube had an argument which led them to go and confront the gentleman named George Mangwenjere in Police records. He however denied having an affair with Lucy, but Musonza was not convinced and went on to grievously assaulted Lucy leading to her death which was confirmed shortly after being rushed to Gweru Clinic. Needless to say Lucy was a lawyer, an educated and empowered woman whom many would view as being empowered against such abuse. Alas gender based violence respects no level of education or bank balance. No one is immune.
UN Women states that less than 40 percent of women who experience violence seek help among family and friends while less than 10 percent seek help from the police.
In African societies, if a woman is being abused by the husband or family they are asked to seek counselling from the elders or to endure for the sake of the children and in some cases it ends up in violence which leads to death. Worse still, reporting abuse leads to hatred or family rejection and even banishment.
With pressure rising for women to be married or to be in a relationship of some sort, many women entertain abusive partners for the sake of fitting in socially. Often by the time people find out what is happening, it is usually too late and often with little positive advice to offer.
While this year’s theme is "Ending violence in the world of work," its sad to note that more women suffer violence and even lose their lives in the home, where they are supposed to be loved and protected. It is important to note here that in the twenty first century, multitudes of seemingly empowered, educated, working women experience violence in the home and still have to go to work voiceless to experience even more abuse.
To confirm the UN’s findings that most cases of violence against women are caused by someone close to them, studies done locally show that up to 70% of women who experience sexual or other forms of physical violence do so from an intimate partner in their lives and thus find it difficult to speak out.
This is why this year the international focus is on speaking out, opening up and getting out of the cycle of violence under the theme “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”, meant to encourage the hosting of events with give local organisations and survivors opportunities to dialogue with activists and policy-makers at various levels.