Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
RELIGIOUS and traditional leaders in Hwange District have been challenged to work together in identifying and fighting gender based violence (GBV) in their communities.
This comes amid concerns about the high prevalence of sexual abuse and early child marriages around the district.
Some churches have been blamed for perpetrating sexual abuse and early child marriages as self-proclaimed prophets target vulnerable women and girls.
Traditional and religious leaders as well as traditionalists from Silewu, Matetsi and Lubangwe are undergoing training on GBV in Victoria Falls to capacitate them to identify various forms of abuse in communities and address them.
The training was organised by Hwange-based Buwalo Matalikilo Trust (BMT), SafAids Zimbabwe, Sonke Gender Justice and Norad.
SafAids programmes officer Mr Lloyd Dembure said: “The aim is to train them as gatekeepers to use their influence to address GBV. Some people hide behind culture and religion hence we want to remove those harmful gender norms and enhance access to justice.
“We want to improve involvement of women in decision making as well as enable their emancipation. Some of the cases being raised are around intimate partner violence where spouses complain about conjugal rights.
We need to work together with communities on these issues and encourage communication between spouses because this is key in preventing violence,” he said.
Female participants said men should be taught to be considerate and respect their wives when they say ‘NO” to sex because of fatigue or sickness.
BMT executive director Mrs Anna Mandizha-Ncube said GBV cases were prevalent in Hwange District although she could not readily provide statistics.
Chief Whange who is among the participants at the three-day workshop called for concerted efforts against GBV.
“The best solution is for everyone including traditional leaders, traditionalists, religious leaders or academics to be involved. Let’s combine efforts and collectively fight gender based violence and reduce cases,” he said.
Pastor Bongayi Shoko of the Moreans Episcopal Apostolic Church in Zion based in Lubangwe said:
“We have tried as churches to engage each other on GBV which was very prevalent within churches. We have some prophets who use religion to abuse women and some have even established surgeries at home where they target women and girls.
It is up to us as churches to swallow our pride and start working together to fight domestic violence and gender based abuse.”
Traditionalist Ms Muthibani Moyo from Silewu ward said sexual abuse is prevalent.
“Sexual harassment is common in our communities and we sometimes attend to cases of couples that fight over conjugal rights. I think we need to work together as different stakeholders to fight this.
“As traditionalists under Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association we are prepared to work with other sections of the society,” she said.
Participants implored traditional leaders to strengthen their structures in the community and take stock of all strangers that visit their areas. — @ncubeleon