Women in Harare’s oldest township of Dzivaresekwa have expressed joy over the recent developments by the Harare City Council, engineering department in their community. The developments saw the rehabilitation of the community’s street tower lights that have not been working since 1998.
This development comes after some women from Dzivarasekwa took part in a Safe Cities for Women and Girls volunteer training facilitated by ActionAid Zimbabwe in partnership with AIDS Counselling Trust (ACT), early March 2015. Following the training the women approached their Councillor for ward 39, Gilbert Hadebe to find ways to solve this problem in a bid to curb the abuse perpetrated against women and girls in public places.
Alice Kasinamunda who is part of the 35 volunteers trained came together with other four women and approached the local councillor to deal with issues of service delivery that were legging behind in her community,
“After the Safe cities training I gained insight and courage and realised that I had a part to play in making my community a better place. Women and girls were being violated in public spaces and to make matters worse, all of our four street tower lights were not working and the darkness made them susceptible to violence,” she said
“One of my neighbour’s daughter was molested in 2013 while fetching water at night at a nearby borehole which is close to a beer hall in the community. I was also arrested one time for loitering and was mistaken for a prostitute all because it was dark in the night. I realised that there was need for me to approach the responsible authority at community level and told him what we wanted to be done” Alice said.
Barely a month after Alice and the other four women approached their local councillor, Hadebe, the Harare city council engineering department renovated the tower lights.
“After I got the visit from the four women about what needed to be done, I approached the local city council and presented our case as it was evident that perpetrators of violence were taking advantage of the dark due to street lights that have not been working. Work was done and right now all the four tower lights in Dzivarasekwa 4 are working.” He said.
Dzivarasekwa 4 which houses 4 500 households, has seen around 30 000 residents benefiting from the renovated tower lights. Alice who has proved to be an active volunteer has to date managed to train 30 women in her community on issues to do with gender based violence and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights(SRHR) issues as well as raising awareness on the need for safe public spaces for women and girls.
“I am very grateful over the developments in my community, after the training I received from ActionAid Zimbabwe and ACT. I managed to train 30 other women in my community on issues to do with violence against women and girls in public spaces,” she said.
Angeline Kamangwana (42) who is one of the four that approached the councillor narrated how the information she got from Alice helped her,
“I saw the need for the streets lights to be fixed but I had no idea where to start from and who to approach, but when I met Alice, she shared some information with me. I gained confidence and realised that I should do something and not just sit there and do nothing. I joined her and other three women and we went to see the councillor and a few days after the tower lights were fixed and we are very happy.” said Angeline.
Wadzanai Munemo (37) of Dzivarasekwa 4 expressed joy over the development in her community,
“I am very happy that the tower lights are working because even thieves were taking advantage of the dark. I personally had an encounter with thieves on my way from work and these thieves were taking advantage of the fact that I am a woman and I cannot defend myself but now that the lights are working and they will shy away because of fear of being identified,” she said.
Quite a number of Dzivarasekwa 4 women have expressed happiness over the fixed tower lights since they were the ones greatly affected as they would have to fetch water at local boreholes in the dark making them susceptible to violence in public places. However Alice highlighted that despite the fixing of the lights women still feel unsafe because men in her community still violate women’s rights.
Even though we are celebrating this victory, there is still need for men in my community to change their attitudes towards women. Men still abuse women in public spaces whether there are lights or not. Women still face abuse in public spaces and there is need for the Safe Cities campaign to involve men as they are the ones who perpetrate violence against women in public spaces,Alice said.
AAZ is implementing the Safe cities campaign in Dzivarasekwa and Chitungwiza in partnership with ACT, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) and Students and Youths Working on Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) between 2014 and 2018. The objective of the campaign is to fight violence in public spaces perpetrated against women and girls as well as equipping them with the ability to challenge violations of women’s rights in public spaces and to be able to work with local authorities and service organisations to provide gender sensitive public services to promote “safe cities” for women.