On Saturday the 24th of November the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development officially launched the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The 16 days kicked off with a three day fair at which different organisations that offer services to victims of gender-based violence show-cased their work. The aura at the launch was inspiring. Men and women who understand the destructive nature of gender-based violence gathered to demand “Peace in the Home and Peace in the Community.” Artists such as Sniper ‘gweta remabhebhi, ’Albert Nyati, Tererai Mugwadi and others also graced the occasion to add their voices to the demand for an end to gender-based violence. The MC, a lively man, kept the crowd roaring with laughter but underneath all the humour his message stood out loud and clear that people should love their partners and not abuse them.
Often, around the 16 days, many comments are raised about how women are not the only victims yet all the attention is on them, why women do not leave if they are in abusive relationships, and about what women may have done to deserve a beating from their partners. These comments are condescending because one can never know what it feels like to be beaten senseless or to be genuinely petrified of the man you said ‘I do’ to. Many women are caught in a web of violence and do not know where or how to get help.
The fair gave some women access to legal services to get protection orders and others knowledge about the location of safe houses when the need arises. The fair provided a space for all citizens to understand that violence is unacceptable as well as to know where to go to seek help.
We often hear arguments that the women’s movement in Zimbabwe died a natural death. However whether that is an altogether accurate assertion cannot be proved more wrong than by the woman who was chased out of her house and had some lawyers fight for her or by the woman who was beaten every day and didn’t have anywhere to go but found an organisation that gave her shelter and counselling to enable her to be alive today.
Although these efforts may not be as comprehensive as is required, they are significant to the thousands of women without which there would have been no assistance at all.So when we talk of the 16 days of activism, it is not a time for ‘bitter women to rut against men’ as some may perceive it to be. It is a time to stand up against violence that has affected our society, because be it a sister, a neighbour or a friend of a friend we must say no to gender-based violence!