Women’s economic development and upliftment is key to reducing abuse

By Fortune Madhuku

Looking back in history, parents never prioritised educating the girl child. Society believed educating a girl child was a waste of resources. The assumption was that the girl would as soon get married and the husband would take over as the provider of everything the wife needed. But the times have changed now. Girls and women have proved to be as hard-working as boys and men. They have proved how independent they can be without relying on their partners for support. But this is only possible if they are given the opportunity to get an education.

It is wrong to teach girls that they do not need to work hard in school to guarantee themselves a better life. It is destructive to socialise them into thinking that their future is guaranteed by getting a husband who takes over the responsibility of their upkeep.  It is evil to make young girls believe that their gateway to success is finding a rich husband who can provide anything they desire. It is also dangerous to create this impression as it puts women at the mercy of their husbands, with no education or jobs. Yet, some amongst us have no qualms about telling this to young girls, poisoning their minds.

Many women consider being in a relationship to be the best thing to ever to happen to them. However, the imagined bliss deriving from relationships is not always pleasant. Millions of women endure never ending abuse perpetrated by their intimate partners.

In Zimbabwe, while measures have been put in place to assist victims of abuse, the major highlight being the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2007, very few women come forward to seek justice. They consider it better to remain in abusive relationships than to opt out and face economic hardships and possibly extreme poverty and homelessness.

This is because many women in our society remain economically disadvantaged. They have not been developed and uplifted to be in a position where they can fend for themselves and earn income to sustain themselves and live decent lives.  To them, husbands are like demi-gods on whom their lives depend. Some women are comfortable with being house-keepers and child bearers while men are the breadwinners. However, these situations are only good when the relationship is pleasant, but when things turn sour most of these women face terrible abuse. They also find it hard to leave the abusive husbands as this would mean wallowing in abject poverty.

Most women do know that they can always report abusive husbands to the police and get them arrested. With heightened education on domestic violence and remedies available, women have most of the information they need but many cases of violence go unreported or get withdrawn. This is because women fear what will happen to them and the children if the bread winner is put behind bars. In some cases, women fear that if they report the husband the next thing is that he  will file for divorce. Without a husband and bread winner, life becomes unbearable to the women who cannot provide for themselves.

It’s surprising to find some women who know very well that their husbands are promiscuous and sleep around with any women they lay their hands on but the women still stay in those relationships. Although they appreciate the risk of contracting HIV and other STIs from their husbands, they still hang in there because they fear a bleak future if they leave their husbands. You hear some women saying ‘’kusiri kufa ndekupi’’ meaning either way it’s hard for them.

Women and girls should be encouraged to work hard in life. Parents should ensure that they educate both the boy and girl child. Girls particularly need much more attention as they grow up so that they are not swayed out of the way. If more and more women are educated so that they can stand on their own this can reduce abuse. It has been proven that women can succeed and reach great heights in life. In Zimbabwe we have a great number of women who have made it in life and occupy influential positions. Names that quickly come to mind are Grace Muradzikwa, the Chief Executive Officer of Nicoz Diamond Insurance, Dr Hope Sadza, the Vice Chancellor of the Women’s University and Dr Charity Dhliwayo, the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, among thousands others. These women have shown that the fairer sex can be much more that house keepers and child bearers, but important players both in the home and the outside world.

Husbands in relationships should develop and uplift their wives if they have not achieved anything before marriage. One way to show love is to educate the wife and develop her so that she can have a life and not depend on the husband for everything. In times of economic challenges like this in Zimbabwe where many companies are retrenching, one never knows the day that the woman will come to the rescue and provide for the family. At least when both the husband and wife are working there is a fallback position should the unfortunate happen.

It is unfortunate that many men are not comfortable being in a relationship with successful women who can stand on their own. They think it may be difficult to override such independent women in family decision making. But just imagine what will happen to the family if the husband, being the bread winner dies or is incapacitated. The whole family left behind suffers and with the woman only able to do menial jobs, more abuse awaits as we have seen vendors and other women who survive on menial jobs facing harassment of different kinds from the authorities. And the cycle of abuse continues as girl children end up marrying just to have someone provide for them. So, a family is in a better position with uplifted women who can provide for the family and stand on their own.

Society should really develop and uplift women so that they can stand on their own and not endure abusive relationship just because extreme poverty awaits should they opt out.


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