Women who are part of a Women Safe Space for Reconciliation (WSSR) established by a community working with Heal Zimbabwe from Zaka have noted that entrenched patriarchal practices inhibit women from participating in local level processes. This came out during a meeting on Sexual and Gender Based Violence organised by the WSSR on 20 August 2021.
Participants noted that the state and social institutions reproduce patriarchal structures that place women in subordinate positions. Institutions such as religion, educational establishments and the media groom men to be patriarchs and women to become subordinates. This in turn limits the participation of women to participate in local level processes such as developmental meetings.”Here in Zaka from the time a girl is growing up, they are taught that only men can take up any position whilst women are encouraged only to cheer for men. It is no surprise that here in Zaka ward 33, we have less women occupying key positions even in the Rural District Council”, said one participant. Participants also noted that child marriage was also rampant in Zaka and continues to perpetuate the abuse of women. The meeting also presented an opportunity for the WSSR to feedback on progress made in championing women issues. It reported that its community garden, which is a safe space for women in the area has facilitated for 30 women to report cases of abuse to the police and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) since January 2021.The WSSR further reported that it has been working with the local leadership such as Village Heads and Councillors to ensure that women get proof of residence so that they can register to vote ahead of the 2023 plebiscite. As a way forwad, the WSSR plans to organise an interface meeting for women with the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) where they can table their concerns. The ZGC is one of the Chapter 12 Independent Commissions with an obligation to investigate possible violations of rights relating to gender and to conduct research into issues relating to gender and social justice and to recommend changes to law and practices which lead to discrimination based on gender.
The meetings by Heal Zimbabwe are part of efforts to empower local communities to help safeguard against human rights abuse and also help build peaceful communities. Heal Zimbabwe utilizes various strategies to address conflicts in local communities. One of these ways is the use of community dialogues, an initiative for communities to discuss and collectively identify ways through which they can proffer solutions to problems in their communities. The platforms also equip communities with relevant information on Covid 19, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and human rights. Such platforms also facilitate local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities as well as create socially cohesive communities.