IThemba for Girls Trust joins the world in commemorating the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence(GBV). However, our activism, vigor and tenacity should persist well beyond the said 16 days of activism. Whilst GBV has become too common an occurrence in the whole world, our greatest concern is that sexual violence on young girls is rising at an alarming rate in Zimbabwe. Continued economic problems and the negative impact of lockdowns on income generation for many has increased household poverty and the vulnerability of young girls to men who are able to entice them with a little money for sexual favours especially in informal gold mining communities. Girls as young as 12 years old are falling pregnant and dropping out of school and the long term implications would be increased gender inequality gap in education which wipes off all the gains made so far on reducing gender inequality in education.
Whilst very little to no research has been done to gather statistics on the number of young girls who have fallen pregnant due to sexual violence, we are concerned with how men are taking advantage of young girls from poor communities. It looks like the government has no strategy of protecting young girls from sexual violence and it continuously remains the responsibility of affected communities to come up with solutions on how to protect their young girls. Communities need to do away with patriarchal values that allow for sexualization of girls at a young age and rather create an environment where girls can live and move around freely without men passing sexual remarks about or towards them.
Communities should develop a “Protect my daughter and I protect yours” concept where men are all vigilant in their small communities to protect their daughters whether biological or not. There are many causes of GBV, but in Africa it is highly encouraged by outdated and at times unreasonable patriarchal norms and values that believe in male dominance in a relationship.
The failure to have a positive masculine mindset leads to men abusing their strength and displaying physical dominance over women to force them to submit. Drastic measures need to be taken to end GBV and Sexual Violence on young girls. Whilst we are advocating for stiffer sentences for perpetrators we also need work towards introducing programs at an early age in schools, churches and other places of convergence for young people. The goal is to transform their mindsets in a positive way with regards to their perception and subsequent treatment of females. We need a Communal Approach that will raise boys appropriately to be responsible males in their everyday lives, as they interact with girls. We need to socialize them so that they respect and identify themselves as equals to girls, with hope that they will grow up to be responsible men who shun from any form of violence against women and girls.
Source: IThemba for Girls Trust (IGT)