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Traditional leaders, who are the custodians of the customary law and norms, have been identified as key players in ending gender-based violence.
Many rural women are abused with no hope of help from police and social workers because of the geographical and infrastructural challenges.
However, traditional leaders can step in to mediate and assist women affected by gender-based violence, Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) Director, Glanis Changachirere said during a Women’s Rights Indaba In Bindura recently.
Traditional leaders have always had great influence pro-democracy and continue to yield the same influence, particularly in rural areas post-democracy.
“As IYWD, we saw it fit that, although we partner the government in our programs, we still need to bring on board traditional leaders such as chiefs and village heads.
“They are key because they are the custodians of the law, they ensure the protection of all our women.
“Before a woman goes to the police, she will report to the headman or chief, hence we need to appreciate the role they play in ensuring women’s development,” Changachirere said
She said engaging men on women empowerment is necessary for women to have access to resources.
“Women have for long been looked down upon, culturally, politically and socially which we are trying to ensure is a thing of the past.
“Abuse of women entails that they do not have equal opportunities and are not at par with their male counterparts. They cannot build their lives, they lack economic capabilities.
“Although women are deprived of equal opportunities, it should be noted that they carry the burden of ensuring that their families are well taken off, they have to ensure that everything around the home is ok,” she added.
A female village head, Shamiso Gotami from Guruve told 263Chat that that women’s problems require women to solve them, hence she has set aside committees which are mandated with conflict resolution in matters to do with GBV and women’s abuse.
“As a woman, I fully understand the women’s rights issues and I think it is easier for my village to talk about it now that there is a woman at the top. When my father was the head, it was difficult because we always thought he wasn’t putting women’s issues on top of his agenda.
“So I’m using my role to ensure that I stand up for women’s rights. I’m telling the women that their life does not stop when they face challenges, we are encouraging counselling for those that have been victims of abuse” she said.
She noted that gender-based violence issues were rampant in her village during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We are seeing a lot these cases but because I’m a mere village head, I then have to take these issues further to the department of social welfare, police, victim-friendly unit or childcare. It is my wish that one day I will be able to deal with the cases directly.
“In these committees, there are also young women who are key decision-makers instead of having the elderly. We want to include them in dealing with their issues,” she added.
Chief Bushu from Shamva said his court has an advisory board which comprises of three women who
“We have made it mandatory to have women being involved in our councils. We have young women, older women and female village heads who are part of our council and they help us in presiding over cases,” Chief Bushu noted.
Traditional Courts are an important platform for addressing and adjudicating gender-based violence cases in rural communities.