THE road leading to Hauna, a fruits and horticulture farming community in Honde Valley in the Eastern Highlands, is one long, winding and treacherous one.
By Michael Gwarisa recently in Hauna Honde Valley
Through the mountainous and rugged terrain, the dark tarred road wriggles its way through the countryside from Nyanga, passing through some sloppy curves and escarpments. Owing to the high altitude, the sense of hearing somehow fades midway through the mountains while the light rain showers randomly spit from all directions.
In the Banana, Sugarcane and fruit plantations dotted along the way, a sizable number of women and children can be seen working in the fields. The country laterally relies on Hauna for the bulk of its fruits especially the famed thick and juicy Nzara Yapera (Hunger has Ended) Bananas and Pineapples.
However, behind this beautiful story of a serene environment, hard work and good fortunes, the women in Hauna just like most women from farming communities and communal areas suffer massive Gender Based violence and torture at the hands of male perpetrators.
The Safe Shelter in Hauna which is run through funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in partnership with the Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) receives not less than 30 cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) every month and houses a minimum of 17 survivors at a given time.
Speaking to HealthTimes on the side-lines of a media tour organised by the UNFPA, Precious Chiahambakwe (26) (name supplied) a GBV survivor from Danhambwa Village who is housed at the Shelter said she suffered both emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her husband who beat her up notwithstanding that she is six months pregnant.
“I had an argument with my husband owing to an infidelity issue. He left me and went to stay with another women after the argument. He then later returned from the other women’s house telling me to vacate the house.
“I came here two days ago after I had gone to report my case to the police and they brought me here. We used to quarrel most of the times that’s when he left me. My husband is a security guard and he is 28 years old. He has not been arrested for beating me up,” said Precious.
She added that the Safe Shelter has given her hope through the massive counseling sessions as well as life skills training offered even though she was yet to take up any any training.
“I am happy that I am here, I feel safe already despite the fact that I have only been here for two days only. I am yet to participate in any training as yet but I am looking forward to that. I am now six months pregnant. The man just made me pregnant and left me. This is stressing me every time, I sometimes fear that the stress could affect my unborn child.”
The facility is manned by professionally trained counsellors as well as female officers from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to ensure the women are free to discuss their private issues under a safe space.
Income generating projects such as livestock rearing, vegetable farming and gardening are also taught at the shelter to equip women with some life skills they could uses once they have been discharged from the facility.
Mr Moses Nyamasoko, the Health Managers at the Shelter said most of the GBV cases they record in the area were as a a result of economic issues as couples fight due to lack of basic resources such as food, money among others hence the various life skills projects at the shelter.
“Issues that are prevalent here as result of GBV are mainly to do economic issues. All our clients do have different services that they get from here mainly counseling. Whoever comes here is exposed to counseling services. Our stakeholders include the Women Affairs ministry and the ZRP. Most of the clients report their clients at the police and the police report them here and we also have walk in clients
“This shelter is advocating and lobbying for quick turnaround time in terms of their cases being heard at the magistrate court. The Magistrate, public prosecutor, the police, the ministry of women affairs they form part of that committee. If their cases are overlapping out of the turnaround time, they actually flag them and that process is quickened,” said Nyamasoko.
The Shelter manager, Mrs Nyasha Gachange said one’s stay at the shelter is determined by the nature of the case and the standard of operation says they have to stay with a case for just a month.
“We stay with a person depending on their case, supposes if someone comes and they have got a case that have to go through the justice delivery system and it takes longer.
“Sometimes we are forced to extend because of the processes that the person has to go through. Mostly some of our clients can just come in for 24 hours just because the husband has just said leave. We get help from the police and they go back home, we asses and then discharge. Right now we have got three cases that are in the house,” said Mrs Gachange.
For the month of October, the Shelter received 10 cases and the other seven have already been discharge.
Meanwhile, UNFPA Gender Coordinator, Ms Verena Bruno said they have taken a two pronged approach to address the issue of GBV and they were working on establishing rehabilitation centers for perpetrators of GBV in bid to address the problem from both the male and females’ perspective.
“We have a national GBV program and it builds on the lessons learnt of the previous programs. It’s a five year program funded at the moment by the government of Sweden, Irish Aid and UKaid . The goal of the program is to reduce GBV and child marriages in Zimbabwe.
“The aim is to strengthen the national capacity through the ministry of gender, civil society and the media. The program has five outputs, with the first output looking at prevention, in this case prevention of early child marriages. The second is looking at delivery and availability of multi-sectorial services for GBV. The third output is looking at strengthening data, output for is looking at strengthening coordination and the fifth output looks at the humanitarian response.” said Ms Bruno.
A total of 1 871 GBV perpetrators received counseling services through a pilot program in prisons as well as perpetrators referred for counseling by courts.
According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) of 2015, the percentage of women who experienced violence in the last 12 months has decreased from 18.4 percent in 2010 to 14.5 percent in 2015. However, the ZHDS also reports that there was an increase in the number of women who report having experienced violence in their lifetime from 29.9 percent in 2010 to 34.8 percent in 2015.
The UNFPA and partners has been involved in some work on GBV which include the setting up of a One stop centers for women survivors of GBV. Such centres are currently located in Rusape, Harare and Gweru.