Yesterday marked the end of the 16 days of activism, which as always, were punctuated by a litany of petitions, threats from ‘feminist’ vigilantes, militant marches and impassioned pledges by stakeholders to stamp out gender-based violence (GBV). This time around: the men also joined the fray trending under the theme, Because I am A MAN.
High profiled discussions were held, not only in Zimbabwe or the region, but also across the globe. For these few days, women issues were highlighted and made it to various platforms. Those seeking relevance and seeking those future votes made sure to mention the violence against women and how they would work endlessly until the scourge is eliminated.
But hold on, it sounds all too familiar, right? Yes, that is very correct, every year, round about this time, we hear the same messages, coined differently to appear fresh to the ears, but they are just re-treads, clothed with fancy words.
In some cities, people woke up to strange sights of skirts hung on a wire in the central business district. Explanation? Each skirt represented a rape victim. Fair enough, but is that all we can do for the victims whose lives have been so disrupted that it may take a lifetime to normalise?
Beyond December 10, everyone has temporary amnesia of the subject until November 25 of the following year, and the cycle begins again. Enough, we say of this charade which yields nothing, except for the amorous funding from genuine donors, which unfortunately never yields much beyond the meetings and marches.
That is the reason why women still get raped, murdered in their backyard, on the streets, in schools and in workplaces because nothing has really changed. Mindsets are not transformed in 16 days. It is a life time effort with a lot of dedication on those calling themselves human right defenders.
More is needed in terms of concrete results. The many cases pending before the courts should be finalised, police officers trained to handle victims and assist them in getting justice.
Community leaders have a part in shaping the young men in their societies to become responsible, law-abiding citizens who respect women.
Gender disparity is a key factor fuelling violence because it is in the differences that men will often feel more important than women. How people are socialised is an important aspect which shapes an individual.
Women make up over 54% of the country’s population, but they continue to bear the brunt of violence from armed groups, sexual violence and child marriages.
GBV, which includes rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and forced and early marriages, is persistent and a serious problem which needs a holistic approach, pivoted on practical political will.