Article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) highlight that violence against women is a form of discrimination. The Convention defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”
As part of contributions towards the realization of this important convention and other domestic pieces of legislation that criminalise Gender Based Violence (GBV),Heal Zimbabwe on 3 July 2020 trained 28 women from Zaka on GBV and human rights. The women comprised of local peer educators, clinic committee members, Community Action Accountability Teams and social accountability teams.
Issues that came out during the training include the COVID 19 induced lockdown which made it difficult for women to engage in economic activities. Participants noted that the spike in cases of GBV during the lockdown was a serious threat to the prevalence of peace and noted it was mostly fuelled by the unavailability of income and food in most households. One case cited involve how men in the area are suffering from stress as a result of failing to engage in economic activities due to the lockdown and are failing to fend for their families. In most cases, participants noted that this created a lot of tensions in homes. Participants also highlighted that lockdown restrictions also made it difficult for survivors of GBV to report cases to institutions such as Victim Friendly Unit. The training took participants through the process of conflict mapping and conflict mediation. These processes help participants to conduct a thorough analysis of the root causes of a conflict, identify parties to the conflict and identify best placed local level stakeholders who can manage and mediate in the conflict.
As a way forward, participants assumed the role of Anti-GBV Ambassadors with the mandate to take a lead in ending violence in different communities and also reach out to survivors of GBV during the lockdown period. The Anti-GBV Ambassadors will also document, monitor, and report cases of GBV to the relevant authorities. Their responsibility will also include compiling monthly reports on the state of human rights in their area and make referrals to institutions such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).The training by Heal Zimbabwe is one among many initiatives meant to build socially cohesive communities where respect for human rights is prioritized.