….as the Informal Economy Embrace the Front Seat In The Fight Against Gender-Based Violence
Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) joins the progressive world in commemorating 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence running from 25 November to 10 December 2021 under the theme “Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now!”
The informal sector in Zimbabwe is now the largest employer, with women making up the vast majority of this number with some estimates as high as 71 percent. These are hard working women who before the start of their typical working day have to undertake unpaid care work such as looking after and educating children, looking after older family members, caring for the sick, preparing food, cleaning an collecting water and fore wood. When they then finally embark on their entrepreneurial activities, it is often with babies strapped on their backs, sometimes having to contend with heavy handed law enforcement, putting themselves and their children at risk. Once done for the day, they can find themselves at the mercy of violent husbands and partners for different kinds of violations. These socially prescribed gender roles denote women and girls as care providers and undermine their rights, limit their opportunities and choices, thereby impeding their empowerment.
In Zimbabwe with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, many husbands were confined in homes under the total lockdown imposed in March 2020, with most losing their incomes. Women were forced into the role of being sole breadwinners in the household, however owing to the lack of public transport following the ban on private operators, they would at times return home late, with some being assaulted by security forces for breaching lockdown regulations, then also being assaulted in the home by spouses for coming late. Statistics indeed show that violence was at a high during this period, although reporting of violence for the victims was made difficult owing to the need to have exemption letters to travel.
VISET has since taken cognisance of the fact that their membership largely comprises of women whose needs are distinctly different from men and has since established the Informal Economy Women’s Hub (INEWOH) to cater for these needs. The Hub will push for the enactment of gender sensitivity training of law enforcement agencies, provision of appropriate infrastructure in the marketplaces, catering to their needs such as fully functional restrooms equipped with incinerators, change rooms and play centres for their children as is being rolled out in East Africa. The Hub is also a safe space for women to speak on harassment and violence at home or in the marketplace and will soon be unveiling a hotline to report such abuses and in conjunction with our partners will offer shelters and legal aid.
During this year’s commemorations, VISET calls upon the menfolk to be better citizens, husbands and partners in order to curb gender based violence and ensure we improve the lot of our women. We also call upon the legislature to enact deterrent sentences on gender based violence so as to be able to aid in the eradication of this evil practice from our society.