THE Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) Thursday joined the rest of the world in commemorating 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence amid concerns over rampant cases of gender-based violence against its members during the Covid-19 induced lockdown period.
In March this year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a total lockdown to try and curb the spread of coronavirus.
During the country’s prolonged lockdown period, there have been cases of harassment by law enforcement agents targeted at vendors.
“BVTA abhors and strongly condemns the harassment of women, youth and children physically, emotionally and sexually.
“It has come to the attention of BVT that different forms of harassment continue to increase, especially on women informal traders from their spouses.
“This is due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions which have forced women to stay indoors due to their vulnerability to harassment and abuse,” said BVTA executive director, Michael Ndiweni.
Ndiweni said Covid-19 has caused a lot of suffering and economic devastation among women informal traders which has resulted in domestic violence.
“In response to such cases, 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence will be used as a strategy to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women informal traders,” he said.
Ndiweni said his organisation was also worried about reports of sexual harassment and abuse on women Informal Cross Border Traders (ICBTs) he said were being extorted by unscrupulous authorities at border posts as a way of paying bribes.
He urged local authorities to strengthen policies and laws which protect informal traders against rape and sexual harassment.
This year’s celebrations are being commemorated under the theme “Orange the World: Refund, Respond, Prevent, Collect”.