Building capacity of multisectoral committees on Gender based violence (GBV) and management of sexual abuse and violence in Zimbabwe
WAG is currently implementing the UNFPA supported project aimed at building capacity of multisectoral committees on Gender based violence (GBV) and management of sexual abuse and violence in Zimbabwe. The trainings are being conducted to support the Ministry of Women Affair s Gender and Community Development to coordinate a multi-sectoral gender-based violence prevention and response programme at district level, with special attention to sexual violence and child marriage. Focus of the training is on building the capacity of stakeholders on GBV and management of sexual abuse and violence in Zimbabwe. The training contributes to the UNFPA Country Programme Action Plan (CPAP), outcome 3, which seeks to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment through increasing national capacity to prevent gender-based violence and enable a delivery of multi sectoral services, including in humanitarian settings.
The initial series of trainings took place in 10 selected districts in Zimbabwe. These districts are among those that are highly affected by maternal deaths, GBV and child marriages. According to the UNFPA Country Programme Action Plan, the three provinces, which are Matabeleland South, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East experience more maternal deaths compared to other provinces. The trainings were done with cooperation from some of the district level stakeholders drawn from Ministry of health and Child Care, Department of Social Services, the Department of Victim Friendly Unit from the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development. The direct targets of the training were selected Government Ministries, civil society organisations, multi sectoral committees and other leadership expected to play a role in prevention and management of GBV at district level. The training followed the same sequence in all the 10 districts although it took longer in some District like Mangwe, Harare South and Epworth where there were specific issues that came up and needed more time to explore.
Emerging issues from the capacity building sessions
The training helped to understand the sexual exploitation and transactional sex taking place especially in areas around the border. In Beitbridge, Mangwe and Bulilima, young people as young as 12 are engaging in sex work. Some children in transit to South Africa (Beitbridge) and Botwana (Bulilima and Mangwe) are intercepted by shabeen owners who sexually exploit them to lure clients. Beitbridge also shared that women who illegally cross to South Africa are abused by the “Malaichas”. These are men who help them to illegally get in and out of South Africa without proper documentation. The challenges noted are that the women do not report GBV for fear of further victimisation and they fear divorce once their husband learns about the incidents. In Epworth and Harare South, it was also noted that there is rampant child sex work, which has put a lot of young girls at risk of HIV and STI infections.
Gaps in GBV Service Provision-The trainings unpacked some of the gaps in provision of quality and comprehensive GBV services. Inadequate health care workers which is compromising quality health service delivery at health centres.
Unfriendly service provision– survivors of GBV are required to be treated in survivor friendly environments. There is a glaring gap however in the clinics that are at local level. For example, there are no emergency rooms at hospital level in the 10 districts trained where GBV survivors can seek confidential treatment. Service providers that include Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development and the Department of Social Services (the Community Development and Probation Officers) also do not have private rooms that can be used to counsel GBV survivors. This has however compromised confidentiality.
Limited staff to handle GBV– in Matebeleland South, there are only two probation Officers if the whole province. Whilst the one Probation Officer in Mangwe is also responsible for other duties that include distribution of aid. In Mt Darwin, the Probation Officer’s contract is expiring in December 2016. There is however a gap since the Probation Officers are key to ensure cases of child sexual abuse are addressed.
Centralisation of essential GBV services-WAG noted that some survivors of Sexual GBV are failing to access quality comprehensive GBV services because the services are only concentrated at district level. In Shamva, Bulilima, local clinics do not provide emergency contraception but they give Post exposure prophylaxis. This has however compromised quality of service provision for SGBV survivors. It was also noted that the use of rape kits has become very unpopular because it takes time for evidence collected by rape kits to come back. The VFU from Mangwe shared that they have resorted to using “other” sources of evidence gathering to ascertain that a rape case has taken place.
-In Shamva, Centenary, Mbire, Mt Darwin, Bulilima and Mangwe, they rely on the regional courts which are in Bindura and Beitbridge respectively. This has caused a lot of delays in dealing with cases of GBV hence meeting the minimum standard of three days for trial of SGBV cases is a challenge.
Imadequate Safe shelter for survivors of GBV- Survivors of GBV sometimes require that they be moved to places of safety while the case is being dealt with. However in all the 10 districts, there are no safe shelters for survivors of GBV. In Mangwe, Beitbridge and Bulilima, they rely on the holding shelters for children in transit as safe shelter. There are also no shelters for adult survivors of GBV in all the 10 districts.
Limited Capacity to handle survivors who are living with disabilities- WAG noted that there is very minimal capacity to work with person with disabilities at VFU, health, judiciary and Social services levels. Participants agreed that persons with disabilities are at high risk of being subjected to all forms of abuses including sexual abuse. The stakeholders exhibited limited or no capacity to assist survivors with disabilities. In Beitbridge, one participant shared that she could not help a mentally challenged survivor who had been raped because of capacity issues. Most stakeholders particularly VFU rely on Leonard Cheshire Disability Trust when a survivor with disability comes to report a case. This has further marginalized persons with disabilities and has also caused delays in docket preparations.
Limited capacity to assist vulnerable witnesses: Service providers complained that they face challenges in soliciting information from the witnesses because they fear victimization. In all the 10 districts, participants shared that witnesses are not forthcoming because they feel when they testify, they put themselves at risk of backlash from the community, and this has compromised the delivery of justice for survivors of GBV.
The Victim Friendly Unit does not have a police officer stationed in the office after 4 pm and during weekends. Although the VFU shared that in every department, there is supposed to be a police Officer on stand-by at every police station to attend to cases that come. However, there was a general consensus that these officers on stand-by are sometimes not available to attend to such cases. An example was given by one participant who shared that she went to the Victim Friendly Unit in Harare to report a case of GBV on Sunday, unfortunately, upon requesting to see the VFU Officer, there was no one on duty and the Officer at the reception had to record the case on a piece of paper and asked the reporter to make a follow up the following Monday to make a follow up on the case.
Recommendations from the project
a) It was noted that there are no Victim Friendly Courts in Mangwe, Shamva, Epworth, Mt Darwin, Mbire and Centenary districts. The districts rely on visiting magistrates who come once in a week and some districts once in a fortnight. This has caused delays in finalising cases. In Beitbridge, there is the Victim Friendly System Committee which however needs further strengthening since some of the critical stakeholders in GBV do not participate in the meetings. The districts recommended that a budget be set aside to enable the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development District heads in areas where there are no regional courts to attend the regional VFS meetings in areas
b) There is also need to prioritise the building of safe shelters for survivors of GBV in all the 10 districts. Due to lack of safety homes, some stakeholders even take the survivors in their own homes which is also risky especially if the perpetrator is also a member of the same community. Mangwe, Bulilima and Beitbridge districts rely on the Reception and Support Centres at border towns. However these receptions centres only cater for children for a very short period. The stakeholders in Mangwe and Beitbridge approached the District Administration Officer with a proposal of turning some of the unoccupied council houses into safe houses for GBV survivors.
c) There is need for continued refresher training on GBV. Participants shared that trends in GBV and in particular sexual gender based violence change regularly for example, the nation is focusing more on addressing issues of child marriages and teenage pregnancies. The information however takes time to get to the furthest district like Mangwe and Bulilima. As a result, it takes time before they adopt new strategies. Continued awareness raising has to be prioritised with the stakeholders taking a multi sectoral approach in disseminating the information.
d) There is need for the Ministry of women Affairs Gender and Community Development to speed up mapping of GBV stakeholders and development of data collection tool to be used by GBV stakeholders in collecting data on GBV. Currently, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development does not have a standard GBV data collection tool for stakeholders.
e) Participants noted that traditional leaders play a critical role in addressing GBV in their communities hence a deliberate attempt should be made by all stakeholders to work with traditional leaders on GBV issues since they are the custodians of culture and societal norms and values that might have a bearing on GBV. There is also need for traditional leaders to collect GBV data for sharing at their monthly meetings with the District Administrators Office. It was also suggested that traditional leaders be represented in Victim Friendly System meetings as they are a critical stakeholder in GBV issues.
ADVOCACY issues Highlighted
There is need to advocate for the legal age of sexual consent to be increased from 13 to 18years. Currently, the law states that a child above 13 can consent to having sexual intercourse but according to the Marriage Act they cannot get married before 18 years if male and 16 years for a female. This has caused challenges in justice delivery particularly for young girls who are sexually abused.
- There is need for all the districts to have safe shelters for children and adult survivors of GBV
- There is need to strengthen district Victim Friendly System and GBV coordination committees.
- The Probation Officers in all the districts are inadequate considering the numbers of child abuse cases.
- There is need for decentralization of emergency contraception at local health facility level and ensuring that all the health facilities at local level are victim friendly.
- The forensic laboratory is only in Harare, there is need to decentralize the forensic laboratory to provincial levels so that evidence is obtained quickly.
Coordination is key to effective GBV programing at all levels. The overall coordination role requires continuous strengthening to ensure accountability and transparency in the use of allocated resources.
- Community leadership has the power to ensure change in their communities. If the community leadership is engaged, they can influence district level structures to prioritise certain issues. Mangwe is an example of a district where influence of local leadership can be used. They built a clinic from resource from Community share ownership Trust. The same strategy can be used to build safe shelters in various districts.
- When resources are pulled together, meaningful results can be obtained. There are various stakeholders in districts working on GBV. However the results are superficial as the resources are fragmented. Working as a multisectoral team is envisioned to yield positive and tangible results.
- Working with existing community based structures such as traditional leaders, church leaders or support groups is an important model that can be used to sustain local strategies for engagement on GBV and child marriages.
The GBV trainings in the 10 identified districts enabled strengthening of GBV structures and coordination at district level. The training also provided participants with an opportunity to analyse GBV within their districts, challenges in accessing services as well as recommendations for effective GBV prevention and roll out strategies. It was also an opportunity to sensitise some of the stakeholders of the coordination role of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community development. WAG also managed to identify the gaps in quality GBV service provision and issues for further advocacy to ensure survivor friendly GBV services are available at district and local levels.
The stakeholders who participated in the trainings committed to work closely with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development to ensure GBV is reduced See annex 1 for the commitments made by stakeholders in Beitbridge to ending GBV collectively.
By engaging with various stakeholders at district level, WAG was able to identify their critical needs and priorities for improved access to GBV services. Barriers to accessing those services were identified and steps were taken to address some of the issues that were identified for example in Mangwe, the team committed to meet with the diaspora committee in December in an effort to start mobilising resources for the safe shelter, while in Shamva and Beit Bridge, there were commitments to approach the local councils for refurbishing unused houses into safe shelters for survivors of GBV.
Participants in Mangwe district during the training