Community Based Organisation takes harmful gender practices head on in Chipinge

Platform for Youth Development Trust (PYD), a community based organisation in Chipinge has launched a project that seeks to empower young women and girls by strengthening their rights and building their capacities to defend themselves against harmful gender practices.

At a roadshow held on Saturday the 6th of January 2018 at Checheche Growth Point stakeholders pledged to work tirelessly to confront the scourge of child marriages, domestic violence, rape and malevolent public sexual activities that have soiled the reputation of Chipinge district. The stakeholders were drawn from the law enforcement agent, the Church, the business community and the medical fraternity. The roadshow was attended by more than 600 people.

The Guest of Honour at the event was Constable Eunice Mabheka of Chisumbanje police station, who is the head of the Victim Friendly Unit at the same station. She was emphatic in highlighting the negative impact of harmful cultural practices on the socio – economic status of women and girls. The statistics from the Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) provided a sad reading on the gravity of the challenges being faced by young women and girls. Chisumbanje police station handles an average of two cases per week involving rape and sexual harassment of young women and girls by older men. The most disheartening aspect of the statistics is the realisation that most of the violations and practices are taking place within a family setting, and the perpetrators being some of the guardians of the victims. Domestic violence has been on the increase, particularly among couples fighting and killing each other over control of family assets and properties. It becomes evident that men are contesting to remain the dominant and only decision maker within the family set up.

We want to applaud the new-found relationship between the ZRP at Chisumbanje station with PYD. As police, we will be engaging with anyone who is progressive as we are witnessing through PYD.I am confident this event today, will act as a high watermark for the positive results ahead”. Constable Mabheka said.

Constable Eunice Mabheka also warned the public that as much as some of the domestic cases can be attended to by the traditional leadership and community based organisations, perpetrators of violence must be reported to the police so as to ensure punitive sentences are issued out as a form of deterrent against the abuse of young women and girls.

The message from the Guest of Honour was supported by Ms Elizabeth Jasi, a Sister in Charge from St Peters Mission Hospital. Ms Jasi started by appreciating the advocacy work being done by the Platform for Youth Development Trust in raising awareness against harmful cultural practices. She bemoaned the fact that cases of under- age girls getting pregnant and contracting sexual transmitted diseases were on the increase. Statistics from UNFFPA confirms that pregnancy among girls is on the rise despite Zimbabwe having one of the highest contraceptive prevalence in Sub Saharan Africa. This high fertility, she advised calls for high awareness and sexual education to avoid the now rising cases of abortion and pregnancy associated illness and maternal death. Ms Elizabeth Jasi talked glowingly of the campaign being launched by PYD, which is a very practical way of taking action against harmful gender practices.

“St Peters hospital will be available to support Platform for Youth Development and the Gender Office to handle cases that will need to be referred for hospitalisation and awareness on sexual health rights” she promised.

The other speaker to take on the podium was Mbuya Mabharera, who is a member of the United Church of Christ In Zimbabwe. She hailed the role of the mainline churches in guiding the morality of local communities. The church considers violence, fornication, adultery and laziness as cardinal sins promoting disunity that in turn have the most vulnerable members of a family as victims. Mbuya Mabharera pledged that the church will work closely to support the PYD campaign to outlaw harmful cultural practices and create social cohesion within the local communities.

The organisers of the event Platform for Youth Development were represented by Cynthia Gwenzi, who is the Gender and Advocacy Officer. Cynthia expressed satisfaction at the level of cooperation that PYD received from stakeholders such as the traditional leadership, business community and Chipinge Rural District council.

The commitment expressed by stakeholders and in particular the crowds I witnessed here, is an overwhelming endorsement of PYD as one of the key players with the mandate to empower young women and girls. PYD together with the stakeholders will deliver on our promise, through the energetic gender activists, to contribute to community development

The project being implemented by the Platform for Youth Development Trust started with a pilot phase that lasted for nine months from October 2016.The project is now fully fledged and is being implemented together with a team of 20 gender activists found in different wards of Chipinge district. The Gender activists are responsible for documenting cases of human rights abuse which are solved through counselling and referring them to networks working with PYD such as Childline, FACT, Musasa Project, Female Students Network ,Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights among others. The main objective of the project is to empower young women and girls to take action against harmful cultural practices. The campaign was implemented to raise awareness and involve the public in facing the challenges that impede on the development and growth of young women and girls.

Source: Platform for Youth Development (PYD)

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