GIVEN that the Covid-19 crisis has seen an increase in cases of gender based violence (GBV), some men have taken a stand against (GBV) and urged society to protect women.
First, experience shows that domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence increases during crises and disasters. It happened during the 2014-16 Ebola and 2015-16 Zika epidemics, and it appears to be happening now. Under conditions of quarantine or stay-at-home measures, women and children who live with violent and controlling men are exposed to considerably greater danger.
In order to curb GBV issues, male GBV champions from Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (Hivos) called for more action to ensure women’s safety.
“There is a huge global misconception that women’s struggles are purely women’s issues so we need to understand that all sorts of violences against women are democracy issues and call for collective action against GBV,” said Charles Mhende, a Masters student at Midlands State University.
He added: “Our work to end violence against women and advancing women’s rights is not stopping during the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, our contribution to the fight against the Covid-19 is to ensure that we continuously monitor and bring forward cases of GBV. The purpose of the fight against GBV is also to establish a different kind of men’s voice. We want to say we share the same sentiments with the victims of GBV atrocities. That as male gender champions, we are taking a stand.”
Sebastian Majengwa, another male champion for gender equality concurred with Mhende: “I work tirelessly to make sure women are not abused during this lockdown period. A society where there is violence on women is a society where there are serious inequalities. We want to show women our support against GBV. The need to support these women will only increase when the crisis is over and people are free to move around again. We must ensure that women’s shelters and other forms of assistance are maintained and strengthened accordingly. We need to also show that not all men are killers. As men, we work together to change the mindsets of other men.”
Women play a critical role in sustainable development. When they are educated and healthy, their families, communities and countries benefit. Yet, gender-based violence undermines opportunities for women and denies them the ability to fully utilise their basic human rights.
In Zimbabwe, about one in three women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence and about one in four women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
According to research, women are largely affected both physically and emotionally while they are also at higher risk of infection as they respond to the crisis.
A GBV peer educator has urged men to fight against gender-based violence every day of their lives to reduce exploitation of women by men.
Ziphongezipho Ndebele, a managing director at Padare/ Enkundleni Men’s Forum said men should be forerunners in shunning GBV as most violence was perpetrated by them.
“Ending violence in our communities is a responsibility of the whole community and it is significant that men and boys are active participants and promoters of change so as to get rid of the current status quo,” said Ndebele.
Ndebele expressed great concern at GBV that is directed at women and girls by men, citing that it resulted in a large part of women’s subordinate status in society.
“GBV devastates the lives of women, girls, families and communities, especially in rural Zimbabwe,” said Ndebele.
He added that Padare recognised that equality between women and men was a fundamental principle of international law as established in the United Nations (UN) Charter, hence achieving a gender-violence free environment was a societal responsibility that must fully engage both men and women.
“The prevailing situation is that women’s lower social status results in them being marginalised from or inadequately represented in decision making.
“This lack of representation leads to their not being in control of processes, structures and outcomes of society such that they become beneficiaries rather than agents of social change. As beneficiaries, they are therefore not able to voice or exercise their choices at domestic and public level,” said Ndebele.
Padare had initiated programmes in which educators work with men in Bulawayo where they provide training on positive and caring fatherhood which aims at building capacity in terms of skills, knowledge and attitude on the role of men as caring partners in promoting gender equality and positive behaviour.
He applauded the men who have since taken noticeable strides in ending GBV.
“I know of several men who work hard to educate others on GBV. There are also men who channel their resources into making sure they educate other men especially those in rural areas and those who are in prison for GBV offences to shun violence. Through these men’s initiatives perpetrators’ attitudes towards women have been changed,” said Ndebele.