Women, girls, men and boys from Dzivarasekwa in Harare on Thursday 1 December 2014 embarked on a silent march as they remembered women who died due to gender based violence (GBV). The march, which was conducted as part of the Dzivarasekwa Community’s commemorations of 16 Days of Activism Against GBV, also sought to introduce a Safe Cities Campaign in Zimbabwe whose primary focus is fighting violence in public spaces perpetrated against women and girls.
Participants walked a 2km stretch with their mouths covered in cloth, holding purple balloons with anti-GBV messages and candle lighting.
The silent march and candle lighting was dedicated to all women who died due to GBV such Isabel Masuka who was a student at the Women University in Africa in Zimbabwe. Masuka was murdered during a domestic dispute in June 2013. ActionAid Zimbabwe, in partnership with the Female Students Network, Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development and Ministry of Home Affairs, supported the Dzivarasekwa communities in conducting the march.
ActionAid Zimbabwe Women’s Rights Programme and Policy Manager, Betty Sithole said during the silent and peaceful march: “Women and girls live differently from men and boys. They live with fear of violence and actual violence.
“Lack of gender responsive public services exposes women and girls to rape and assault. Women are jeered, laughed at or ridiculed when they board public transport.”
Sithole said women and girls who board public transport are given “all sorts of names” such as “mutumba wasekuru” a derogatory description of a big woman.
“If there is no water in the home, it is the woman who walks for long distances to go to boreholes and sometimes they experience violence at the boreholes. Tall grasses in open spaces in the communities also expose women and girls to rape and assault,” said Sithole.
She said it was therefore important for women and girls to be organised to demand gender responsive public services to reduce violence in public spaces as one of the outcomes for the Safe Cities Campaign running globally in ActionAid operational countries.
Anna Kachibade (77), a vegetable vendor from Dzivarasekwa who attended the silent march lamented on how women and girls are being harassed by rank marshals. She said: “I was disturbed one day when I saw one lady whose dress was torn apart by a rank marshal who said her dress was too shot and tight”. Anna appealed to the government to enforce laws that protect women and girls from violence. Violet Mvelasi (47), a cross border from Dzivarasekwa who also attended the march said:” Our rights are being infringed by bus conductors who think every cross border is a prostitute”.
A Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development representative, Bernard Kachavi said Zimbabwe officiated the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV commemorations which is celebrated internationally every year, from the 25th of November to 10th December. Kachavi said: We are commemorating the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV at a time when the Government had noted with great concern an increase in the number of GBV, particularly rape.
“From January to October2014, atotal of 4 379 cases of rape have been reported and of these, 3 045 are juveniles. …….The majority of the victims are young girls (even babies) and women including older ones and women with disabilities.”
The 2014 16 Days of Activism Against GBV commemorations are being held under the theme: “From Peace in the home to peace in our communities: Promoting safe spaces for women and girls.”