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Zimbabwe: Working together to tackle domestic violence

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“It is a very radical achievement to get young women to engage with patriarchs in their communities...If a chief says domestic violence is wrong, people will take notice,” says Angeline Mugwendere, Director of CAMFED Zimbabwe [pictured front row left].

July 2006 - “We work every day with women, but they live in communities where men hold all the power,” says Angeline Mugwendere, Director of CAMFED Zimbabwe. “It is a very radical achievement to get young women to engage with patriarchs in their communities. Chiefs are the long-lasting cultural custodians in rural Zimbabwe. If a chief says domestic violence is wrong, people will take notice.”

CAMFED Zimbabwe recently brought together a group of 14 traditional leaders from nine districts as part of a pioneering project to tackle domestic violence in rural areas. Working in partnership with local organisations, the goal was to challenge head-on some of the traditionally held values that affect young rural women – ranging from child abuse and rape to virginity testing and early marriage.

Leading activists from the Musasa Project, an organisation that educates the general public and authorities about the illegality of violence against women, talked to the chiefs about the dangers many women face. Also joining the call for more protection for women were representatives from the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), a coalition of female lawyers that works with women and children to make sure they are aware of their legal rights.

At the start of the meeting, many of the chiefs were sceptical. But by the end of two days, they had invited lawyers to their rural districts – giving ZWLA an important opportunity to reach women in some of the country’s most far-flung areas.

During the course of the meeting, the chiefs agreed to introduce strict punishment for people found to be abusing their own children, and encouraged everyone to work hand in hand with the police to make sure that culprits are caught.

“We are looking forward to building on these strong working partnerships with organisations like the Musasa Project and the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association to challenge those in power to protect women and children from abuse,” says Angeline.

 


 

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