This Press Release was published in the Daily News and in Newsday on International Women’s Day
(8 March 2012) Today, the Research and Advocacy Unit [RAU], an NGO working on providing specialist assistance in research and advocacy in the field of human rights, democracy and governance calls on the Zimbabwean government to eradicate politically motivated violence against women as it is a drawback to the development of communities in commemoration of International Women’s Day.
RAU is deeply concerned with the manner in which political violence has contributed to poverty and poverty traps for rural women. Political violence as witnessed during the 2008 disputed elections resulted in the injury of many women, leaving them maimed and unable to fend for their families. Breadwinners were killed or disappeared resulting in income losses and at times forcing families into abject poverty.
Homes were destroyed and whole granaries of harvest burnt to ashes. This loss of assets forced many women into deprivation and economic distress from which they are still to recover. In many of the cases, national leadership, traditional leadership and the police were unresponsive to the women’s pleas for protection and accountability.
RAU also notes that political violence affected education and literacy, two important factors to the eradication of poverty among rural populations. The disruption in schools by political campaigns as well as the setting up of political bases at schools created security fears among communities as schools had become political battlefields. As a result the girl-child dropped out of school and teachers fled to ‘safe’ zones, depriving especially rural school children of skilled teachers and the teachers of their sources of livelihood.
Political violence also impacted the delivery of health services which is an essential indicator of poverty in any country. Victims of the violence incurred injuries, ill-health and severe psychological damage. Most of these individuals have still not received adequate redress.
RAU expresses concern with the eradication of poverty especially among rural youths as such persistent poverty created grounds for youths’ increased participation in violent campaigns during the 2008 elections.
RAU calls on the Government to end political violence against women in Zimbabwe by bringing perpetrators to book, providing assistance to victims and preventing recurrence of such violence in the future as part of their ongoing campaign. It further calls for the involvement of women in positive and committed reconciliation processes because this is not only a question of justice but also sustainable development. RAU calls for humanitarian and psychosocial support for all the women affected by political violence as reiterated in the Global Political Agreement and the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development which protects and upholds women’s human rights to which Zimbabwe is a party.
RAU also implores the government to direct the Zimbabwe Republic Police to investigate and prosecute all perpetrators of political violence against women. In the absence of such measures, the recurrence of violence is highly likely. Such violence only serves to entrench regression of the status of women, especially rural women into poverty.