Stephen Ephraem/Pamela Hlatshwayo
A woman sits under the shade of a kitchen hut with her head buried in her palms while her young daughter looks at her with apparent concern.
After a short while, the woman shifts focus to the child and wipes tears flowing down her cheeks. She calls the youngster to her and the two souls embraces each other.
The young daughter innocently asks her mother, “Why did father beat you?” to which the woman replies, “It shall be alright.”
This account is one of the many Gender Based Violence (GBV) experiences that women across Africa face, with Chipinge being one of the worst affected districts in Zimbabwe. The district’s population is multi-cultural with most of the people identifying themselves as Ndau and Tsonga (Xangani) and Karanga.
Most productive men in Chipinge tend to cross illegally into neighbouring countries especially South Africa for greener pastures, leaving their marriage partners at the mercy of abusive in-laws and relatives.
Concerning cultural norms, most traditional African communities do not believe in the socio-economic and political empowerment of women. This leaves the men with the financial muscle over women.
In an interview, Chipinge District Aids Committee chairperson, Alex Chimedza said many cases of domestic violence seem to have an economic outlook, with victims being women who cannot provide for themselves and rely on men for their upkeep.
“Men expect women to be reasonable when asking for money, something which is not practical given the economic hardships the country is currently facing. Another problem is that men neglect their families and most of them concentrate on spending the little money that they earn on beer. This ultimately leads to domestic violence as the men will no longer have money to provide for the family when the need arises,” said Chimedza.
He said there was need to eliminate cultural norms that prevent women from working and earning income to sustain the family without necessarily asking men for assistance.
“Domestic violence requires a strong response from communities. It is vital that communities empower women financially to help them complement the usual male breadwinners’ incomes. This would help reduce tension at home and give everybody some financial breathing space,” he said.
During the 16 days of activism against GBV which began on November 22 and ended on December 10, this publication gathered that a larger population of girls in rural areas enter into child marriages and their communities tend to turn a blind eye on that.
Administrative officer in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Kudzai Chiripasi said poverty contributed immensely to GBV at household level.
“Women are often the ones at the receiving end when people lack basic commodities at home. Men abuse their wives emotionally and even physically whenever the women asks for money to buy what is needed in the house,” said Chiripasi.
Chiripasi said the ministry was making some interventions by coming up with empowerment programmes so that chances of women getting abused in homes can be lessened.
“In Chipinge our ministry has helped reduce Gender Based Violence through such initiatives as the Women Development Fund which required some six women to form a group and partake in income generating projects. Under the fund, women were given an egg hatcher and this is helping them to generate income,” Chiripasi said.
Chiripasi urged women to join income-generating projects that she said were one way of protecting them from abusive relationships.
“As a ministry, we are raising awareness campaigns on Gender Based Violence and hope that affected women shall be empowered to reduce their chances of being victims of abuse by men,” Chiripasi said.