Men and Boys lets Talk about Gender Equality!

As part of commemorating 16 Days of Activism against GenderBased Violence, Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) has embarked on a series of activities to sensitize men and boys on the issues of Gender Based Violence (GBV), rape and gender equality.

The 16 Days of Activism against GBV is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November- the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December- Human Rights Day. This year, the Campaign is running under the theme: “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!”

As part of its interventions to support the 16 days efforts, WALPE has so far reached out to communities in Nyanga and Mutasa districts -Manicaland Province to engage men and boys on how to eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls. The organization visited primary and secondary schools and engaged the students and teachers as a way to promote the ethos and ideals of gender equality, standing up against GBV, rape and inculcating a culture of respect and upholding the rights of women and girls.

The schools’ engagement programme was particularly more successful with young males responding positively to the call for ending GBV. In one school in Nyanga, the intervention came timeously as the school had just recorded a case of victimization of one pupil girl by a group of fellow male classmates. The activity was a critical intervention as it allowed for open discussion of such issues as well as providing solutions.

In the same districts, we also engaged traditional and church leaders, women, and men through dialogue. Several strategies which include setting up Anti GBV clubs in schools were proposed in a niche to end gender based violence. The participants also took time to make public pledges for peace and commitment to end GBV in their respective communities. All the men and boys who pledged to promote peace were given commitment portraits to display in their houses and business premises. As WALPE, we believe that if efforts to end violence against women and girls are to bear fruits, it should take men and boys to change their mindsets and unlearn retrogressive cultural and traditional practices which are fueled by patriarchy.

While GBV is prevalent in communities, it is also worrisome that State sponsored violence against women is also on the rise in the country. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has reported that in January 2019, following disturbances and civil unrest during demonstrations, 19 women were allegedly raped by state security agents.  These women are yet to get the justice they deserve, the perpetrators have not been apprehended and the women continue to live daily with the wounds of violation and injustice.

It is against this background that WALPE urges the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission to pay specific attention to cases of alleged state sponsored violence against female human rights defenders and activists and make sure that perpetrators are held accountable.

In Zimbabwe, like in many other African Countries, rape is rooted in a complex set of patriarchal beliefs, power, and control that continue to create a social environment in which sexual violence is pervasive and normalized. Exact numbers of rape and sexual assaults are notoriously difficult to confirm due to frequent latitude and impunity for perpetrators, stigma towards survivors, and their subsequent silence hence the need to engage all stakeholders regardless of age or sex.

From Nyanga and Mutasa, the organization is continuing with the commemorations with planned public indabas with aspiring women leaders. Men and boys in Midlands and Bulawayo province over the weekend. The discussions will centre around strategies of dealing with GBV and possible advocacy initiatives towards getting gender parity in Zimbabwe. The indabas will also provide an opportunity for local communities to reflect on what role they can play to support women to take up leadership positions as part of policy and cultural transformation. Leadership plays a critical role in shaping and influencing society’s perceptions of gender based violence. Thus having more women represented in leadership is critical in ending the scourge of violence against women. The organization will also take advantage of the platforms to give feedback on the findings of the research it conducted this year on: “The Efficacy of the Women’s Parliamentary Quota System”. One of the major research findings was that women rejected the extension of the proportional representation quota system and want the Government to implement gender parity as espoused by the Constitution in section 17, 56 and 80.

WALPE through Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) will be challenging the move by the Government of Zimbabwe to extend the women parliamentary quota system in the Constitutional Court once it has been gazetted.

Join us and the rest of the world in honoring and amplifying the voices of survivors and grassroots activists, #HearMeToo #GenerationEquality #NotoRape #LetsGo5050