Zimbabwe needs gender-sensitive response to disasters’

CIVIL society organisations in Zimbabwe have called on the government to ensure national preparedness in dealing with issues arising from gender-based violence (GBV) during national disasters such as the coronavirus (Covid-19)-induced lockdown.

This comes as the civil society organisations, including the Women’s Coalition in Zimbabwe (Wcoz), UKAid, SafAids and Social Development Direct, have issued a report indicating that there was a 38,5 percent overall increase in reports of violence to NGOs providing services to Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) survivors over the first three months of the national lockdown.
“The government should work with all stakeholders, including women-led civil society organisations, to ensure that national Covid-19 preparedness, response and recovery plans are based on a gender analysis, reflecting the different needs and situations of diverse women and girls in Zimbabwe, and address rising levels of different forms of VAWG.
“The government should designate all GBV services, including shelters, VFUs and helplines, as essential services and support service providers to strengthen services and help them adapt to the changing circumstances, for example, through providing more phone or online support and ensuring they have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and protocols to continue to operate safely.
“As part of early recovery planning, members of Parliament should discuss allocating a dedicated proportion of the national budget on GBV to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on gender equality and VAWG and ensure there is urgent and flexible funding for GBV service providers, particularly women-led civil society organisations, to continue their operations,” read the report.
According to the report, titled Violence Against Women and Girls during the Covid-19 Crisis in Zimbabwe, reporting of physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence  were highest during the Covid-19 lockdown period irrespective of the type of violence.
“Physical violence increased by 43,8 percent, emotional violence increased by 80,3 percent, and economic violence increased by 42,4 percent … 71,1 percent of reports of violence in March to May 2020 were reported as partner violence, a slight increase on the previous year (68 percent) as a proportion of all reports of violence.
“These overall figures mask an even more dramatic increase in reports received by virtual platforms — phone calls, WhatsApp, SMSes,” read the report.
The report indicated that the Covid-19 crisis exacerbated poverty, which increased tensions in the household by limiting the ability of women to find ways to put food on the table and exacerbating men’s frustrations for not being able to provide for the family.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Zimbabwe’s Health Demographic Survey indicated that more than 35 percent of married women aged between 15-49 experienced spousal violence committed by their husband or partner while one in three girls is married off before she turns 18, often to older men.

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