Statistics show that an overwhelming majority of the cases of violence in Zimbabwe are inflicted on women and girls. All too often, such violence goes unreported. This is because, in part, in many cultures women are treated with less regard than men.
Although Africa has had a long-standing tradition of unequal power relations between men and women, gender inequality is a worldwide phenomenon and no culture is immune to it. In fact, GBV in Zimbabwe cuts across cultural lines, economic status and religions. GBV activists cite that even high-powered business women can find themselves in abusive situations, even though they are economically independent or the breadwinner in their relationships.
The thing about GBV is that it is swept under the rug. No one wants to talk about it. It’s a silent, murky unpleasantness happening underneath the surface of everyday life. For some people, it becomes normal, and there is no way to even begin a discussion of the matter.
The key to combating this scourge is critiquing power and the ideas that revolve around masculinity and what it means to be a woman in this society. We live in a society that endorses and perpetuates an extraordinarily fixed hierarchy that cuts through all social conventions. This means that people understand themselves in relation to a power structure that places their choices, worth and actions in direct relation to others. In this way, how you imagine life and its consequences is pre-determined.
Crucially, women are staunchly defined in relation to the men in their lives. It starts with a father and is transferred to a husband, creating a power dynamic which privileges masculinity above all else. This is constantly shown in big and small ways every day and manifests in abusive behaviour or child marriages to reinforce this dynamic, to facilitate gain and allow and remind all parties to understand the status quo. It is a tricky, dangerous, insidious practice, which is why it is so prevalent and so hard to talk about. But it is a conversation that we must have.
How can a society hope to achieve its potential when more than half of its population is deprived of a seat at the table?
Violence against women prevents an economy from achieving its full potential:
Economic Cost of GBV
Social Cost of GBV
If you or anyone you know are currently victims of gender-based violence, please contact the following organizations for assistance:
Provides legal services and temporary shelter to survivors of gender-based violence.
Address: 64 Selous Ave
Tel: 725881, 08080074
Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association
Provides free legal services to women and children.
Address: 17 Fife Ave
Tel: 703766, 706676, 706751, 708491, 0772 884 942
Email: [email protected]
Childline/ZRP Victim-Friendly Unit
Address: 31 Frank Johnson Ave, Eastlea
Tel: 796741, 793715, 252000, 116
Adult Rape Clinic
Address: Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Ward C9, Parirenyatwa Hospital, Avondale
Tel: 2918266, 0775 672 770, 0733 406 292
Image Credit: GBV statistics courtesy of UNFPA Zimbabwe