The power of words: Addressing verbal abuse in promoting safe spaces for women


By Wendy Tagarira

I have observed that most women feign mental and emotional stability in public spheres whilst they are suffering from within. They try hard to paint a sunny picture of their lives and hide beautifully the dark clouds of the reality transpiring in their lives. It is fact that many women in Zimbabwe are subjected to gender based violence; their husbands, fathers or partners being the chief perpetrators.

Through my discussions with various women, I realised that most men abuse their partners or wives physically but more so verbally, thwarting and undermining their ego and capabilities in private spheres. The victims further work flat out to shield their counterparts’ reputations in a bid to avoid further abuse. The greatest tragedy in the matter is that the male counterparts rejoice in and derive pleasure from emotionally and psychologically torturing their wives, crippling their integrity and confidence in the outer world.

Women live with the unceasing reminders of their inadequacy from their male counterparts such as ‘You are doing me a disservice here… you are a liability… you have nothing to offer… you are only after my money…you are a gold digger… I regret ever meeting a monster like you…you are not as beautiful as… you are too fat…too thin…too dark.”

This affects women’s self-confidence and pushes some women to engage in harmful practices. These practices such as skin bleaching, vagina tightening, use of appetitos to enhance body curves have serious health consequences. It is tragic that women will harm themselves as they try to become what the men say they are not.

The constant verbal abuse also limits women’s participation in the social arena. For the woman to contribute to society effectively, she needs to have her confidence built within her home. For the woman to establish good rapport with others in the society, the good rapport must begin at home. If a woman is appreciated and regarded as a useful asset in the home, it will also reflect in the entire community as she will live up to her potential, proving her usefulness as an asset in a larger spectrum. What a productive world it would be, if every male celebrated the women in his life.

Verbal abuse is a challenge we face in Zimbabwe as husbands and partners in the home are rubbishing their wives and partners, treating them like nonentities. This destroys peace in the home.  Telling someone that they are insignificant or a mere chattel will unquestionably affect them and kill their confidence in their interactions with the world.  Cultural and societal expectations are biased towards men and usually, women are encouraged to endure in such circumstances where men are continuously verbally abusing them. Women are expected to endure as the men relentlessly remind them of how useless they are yet common adages confirm that women are very important entities in various societies and the world at large. There is the Shona proverb which says ‘Musha mukadzi’ meaning that the woman is the pivot and the crux of the home. It can also be extended to mean that the woman is the hinge of a  nation’s success.

A nation cannot be successful without the contribution of women. Women are naturally endowed with influence. It is imperative that men promote peaceful environments in the home for their spouses and partners, to promote peace in the entire society. Peace for the woman begins in her home.

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