“We need free legal representation to help us fight against GBV”

Women who are part of peace structures trained by Heal Zimbabwe to monitor Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases in communities have challenged government to provide free legal representation to women in rural areas to help fight against GBV. This came out during a Virtual discussion conducted by the women in commemoration of the International Human Rights Day that is commemorated annually on 10 December. The virtual platform is comprised of women from Makoni, Zaka, Gutu and Bikita.

Through the facilitation of Heal Zimbabwe, the women invited a guest from Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) to discuss on constitutional provisions that promote and safeguard womens’ rights and other International conventions that seek to end violence against women such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).The discussion also discussed extensively on Resolution 1325,which was adopted by the United Nations on 31 October 2000.This important resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

Among other issues raised by women include, patriarchal practices that infringe women’s rights such as the right to own land among other issues. It also came out during the dialogue that women are being excluded from the Pfumvudza Agricultural input Scheme as the programme tends to favour land owners who in most cases are men. One topical issue that dominated the discussion was on the need for government to ensure that women get free legal aid to help fight GBV. Women noted that in rural areas, women have normalized GBV since in most cases women do not have legal aid that can help assist them on legal proceedings that can be undertaken in the event that one is violated. Women also noted that most police stations are situated at growth points which make them inaccessible to most women given the unpaid care and burdensome domestic chores they are involved with. As part of way forward, WLSA provided women with a directory which provide toll free numbers as well as a referral pathway to legal aid on GBV issues.

The virtual dialogues are part of Heal Zimbabwe’s advocacy initiative that seeks to promote social cohesion, promote and safeguard the enjoyment of human rights within local communities. Added to this, the dialogues also seek to bring the voices of citizens into governance, enabling citizens to monitor and provide feedback on key issues, and helping to build trust between rights holders and duty bearers.

Source: Heal Zimbabwe

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