Accessing counselling services for Gender Based Violence (GBV) victims has been difficult during the Covid-19 induced lockdown period, a civil society organisation has stated.
Emthonjeni Women’s Forum, which offers counselling services to victims and survivors of GBV in Matabeleland region noted that such factors as movement restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdown served as a barrier to GBV victims.
Speaking to CITE on the side lines of a women’s circle dialogue on the significance of counselling, Duduzile Moyo, a counsellor at the organisation explained that some women who are subjected to various forms of abuse struggled to access help during the peak of the lockdown period.
Moyo said even when the lockdown restrictions were relaxed, most of the victims struggled to access assistance due to transport challenges.
“Some of our clients stay in rural areas and need to commute to our offices for their counselling sessions. Most transport operators peg their fares in foreign currency yet some of our clients have no means of raising money on their own. They are dependent on their perpetrators; they would be afraid to ask for money so they end up defaulting the counselling process. In that case, it becomes difficult to render full assistance,” Moyo said.
Moyo cited that another challenge they encountered is that even after counselling GBV victims and assisting them to secure legal assistance, perpetrators tend to violate court orders.
“In the event that court orders are granted in favour of the victims, perpetrators still violate them and courts take a while to intervene in such circumstances. This then defeats the process of counselling as the survivors then start all over again. The women go through the same abuse all over again and we have to start the process afresh,” she said.
Moyo said despite the challenges, the organisation has managed to successfully assist some people who are subjected to GBV.
“We have a number of survivors from the sessions we conduct. We do not only counsel the victims but we also reach out to the perpetrators and family members where there is need. Some men have attended our counselling sessions and have acknowledged their shortcomings and promised to change their behaviours,” Moyo said.
“There are also some survivors who we have put into groups so that they can share their experiences and share coping mechanisms with fellow survivors. We also conduct family conferences to promote conflict resolution in cases where families are fighting over such issues as inheritance. We link families with legal practitioners in order to ensure that widows and orphaned children are not taken advantage of.”
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)