Empower women to fight Gender Based Violence

07 Dec, 2021 - 00:12 0 Views
Empower women to fight Gender Based Violence Rural women carry loads of firewood in this file photo

The Chronicle

Leonard Ncube
HISTORY has it that under Nazi Germany a woman’s place was that of nurturing the family and manning the home while men were in charge of everything including but not limited to provision of essentials and general protection of the family.

At school girls were trained to be housewives and were discouraged from going on to higher education and Hitler saw nothing wrong with that. He had a conviction that he was only promoting ‘a natural order’. He would go on to give women incentives for staying at home under the law for reduction of unemployment where he would put pressure on women to give their jobs to unemployed men.

Hitler did not think women were able to “think logically or reason objectively,” and that has remained the official position in some African societies where the girl child has been discriminated and denied education.

There still exist some communities that disempower women and empower men but that is being challenged globally with governments pushing for equal opportunities between men and women.

In Zimbabwe positive strides have been made towards the achievement of gender equity although the gospel is still to be appreciated in other communities where cases of gender-based violence usually perpetrated against women are still common.

The lack of empowerment and archaic traditional practices have seen most women enduring torturous relationships with some leading to death or maiming of the victims.

In Tsholotsho, Ms Siqinisweyinkosi Mhlanga (33) has responded to the calling of empowering orphaned and vulnerable children in the district as part of efforts to confront the evil menace of gender-based violence.

She was born at Pumula Mission in Tsholotsho and said as she grew up, she was touched by the plight of vulnerable children who in most cases fell victim to gender-based violence.

She is a married mother of two and a holder of a Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies which she obtained at Solusi University, but her only formal job so far has been temporary teaching at Hazela Primary School and Samahuru Secondary School where she did her secondary education.

Ms Mhlanga formed a community-based organisation called Orphans, Friends and Community Development Trust, which is offering vocational training courses in hotel and catering, till operation, nurse aid, hair dressing, building and carpentry.

The organisation targets those aged between 16 and 21 years who may have missed formal education thereby complementing Government efforts to ensure youths acquire life-long skills that enable them to start businesses.

The vocational initiative also empowers the community to fight GBV as the district joins the rest of the world in commemorating 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence which started on November 25 ending on December 10.

This is the first vocational training institution in Tsholotsho and if supported, can help transform the whole district.

So far, 378 youths from the district have benefited from the vocational training since 2018 when learning started.

Some of the graduates are now employed locally while others got opportunities in South Africa.

A group of 56 students graduated with certificates in various courses last month where Tsholotsho Senator Alice Dube was guest on behalf of Minister of State in Vice President Constantino Chiwenga’s office, Major General (Retired) Sibangumuzi Sixtone Khumalo who is also Tsholotsho North legislator.

Senator Dube pledged Parliament support for the initiative.

Ms Mhlanga says her vision is to see the Trust grow into an internationally recognised organisation and the organisation’s motto is “Driving the wheels of hope to the hopeless.”

“My inspiration is to help orphans and reduce child marriages in our community. This came after I witnessed injustices in our Mazilingana Line where I grew up seeing orphans being vulnerable to some societal ills. I had just enrolled at Solusi University in 2008 when I conceived the idea of helping such people.

“I wanted to help an orphaned minor girl who had been married off but I failed because I was still young and without resources. I believe that it is only us as a community who can solve our problems because we are the ones who know them and that is why I started this community-based organisation to give skills and empowerment to orphans and disadvantaged children,” said Ms Mhlanga.

She said she has started the process of registering a formal college with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development.

At the moment the courses are being done in partnership with Bulawayo Business Studies College and St John’s Ambulance in Bulawayo.

The courses range between six months and 18 months.

The students graduate with certificates and 31 of them have already secured employment at various shops and businesses in Bulawayo with the help of the college.

“This is not our first class. In total 378 students have graduated since we started and 90 percent of them are orphans. Some of them are already working locally while others have found employment in neighbouring South Africa,” said Ms Mhlanga.

She said she was struggling to get decent premises to operate from and was operating from two sites in Tjefunye Ward 19 and Sihazela in Ward 1.

Ms Mhlanga said the college had spread to Bulilima district and she recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bulilima Rural District Council for a piece of land.

“We are a small community-based organisation and need land to build premises for a college. We have approached the Tsholotsho Rural District Council and they have promised us land but for now we are happy to have an MoU with Bulilima RDC. The building that we are using at village centre is derelict and we need to refurbish it. There is no electricity and students carry equipment to the shopping centre when doing practicals and that’s an inconvenience.

Orphaned students do not pay fees. They learn for free while those who are not orphans pay R300 tuition per month,” she said.

To enroll, prospective students have to prove that they are orphans by producing parents’ death certificate or a letter from the village head.

Ms Mhlanga however said she was facing resistance from some community members who have not embraced the idea and this has forced her to go door-to-door to register orphans.

She appealed for food, blankets and bedding for students who are boarders.

An international organisation called ‘Tools with a Mission’ donated equipment for practical courses while Angel of Hope Foundation donated clothes, food, stationery and sewing machines when the First Lady visited Tsholotsho in 2019. [email protected]

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