On Monday, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in launching the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign, whose mandate is raising awareness on gender-based violence and its effects on women.
Of late, cases of GBV have been on the rise, and on a daily basis there is a story of a woman being murdered or harassed by her husband, partner or a stranger even. Who could forget the young banker who was murdered by a rogue taxi driver on her way from work.
A young life snatched just a short distance from home by heartless robbers who targeted her because she was a woman and, therefore, was ‘easy’ prey. Women have come up with WhatApp groups to give each other tips on how to survive these attacks targeted on them.
This has exposed just how vulnerable women really are, but the law enforcers are dragging their feet in bringing to book these callous murderers.
But what defies all logic is when a partner kills his girlfriend or wife in cold blood. An Airforce of Zimbabwe pilot this week was arrested for allegedly murdering his girlfriend whom he accused of cheating. He repeatedly bashed her until she lost consciousness and sadly passed away. A life so cruelly taken over an issue that could have been resolved amicably.
Stakeholders, including activists and the government, should heed what Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda and the ambassador of the Netherlands, Barbra van Hellemond, said during the launch of the campaign at the Parliament building in Harare.
Mudenda said commemorations of the event should not have timelines, meaning, but must be a daily accession which restrains people and reminds them of the “ubuntu” spirit.
Beyond the 16 days which receive a lot of visibility, punctuated by pledges and impassioned speeches, nothing else happens throughout the year and that is why we are caught napping all the time.
There are many facets to the social plague which has resulted in many deaths and the maiming of women across the country. Society too has allowed this to go on simply because it is assumed that women function better if they are “disciplined occasionally”, or worse, some believe it is a sign that one is loved if they are beaten up daily.
The largely patriarchal society turns a blind eye to such crimes, but it is someone’s sister, mother or friend.
The government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have roles to play. Awareness raising is still relevant in changing mindsets as well as empowering women with information on how they can get out of abusive relationships.
Women also need to know that a seemingly harmless clap or a kick is not okay because the next time it will be a knife or bullet through the head.
Together with government and the NGO community, both men and women can be educated on the cost of violence, and the need to reduce gender disparities and empowering women to be able to stand on their own, both economically and socially.
Empty promises should be a thing of the past.