Government, put your money where your mouth is!
As we commemorate 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence the theme this year is “Orange the World: Raise money to end violence against women and girls.” This is a befitting theme to highlight the state of the funding situation for women’s issues in Zimbabwe by the Treasury. Women make up the majority of the total population at 52% yet they are treated like second class citizens and less than 1% of the country’s total budget is dedicated to their issues. They face many many problems, gender based violence being one of them and one of the biggest.
The statistics are appalling.
UNFPA reports that more than 1 in 3 women have experienced physical violence and 1 in 4 have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. Women have also been the biggest victims of the economy downward spiral with over 200 falling prey to human trafficking to Kuwait under the guise of better opportunities. These are just but a few of the examples of the issues that women go through however funding to tackle them has been very low.
In light of this context, in 2014 the gender ministry was allocated 0.3% of the total budget, and, of this allocation, only 51.6% was disbursed and expended as at October 2014. Allocation did increase in 2015, but by a mere 0.1%. These numbers tell a story. They are evident of the trivialisation of women’s issues by the government. For a group that makes up over half of the total population to receive less than one percent is an insult.
However, life has to go on with or without government funding. There is need for unity amongst individuals and civil society actors to come up with sustainable ways of fundraising to end GBV. There is a need to capacitate our law enforcement agencies to effectively deal with cases. Currently the Victim Friendly Unit is only available from 8 a.m till 4 p.m, and does not offer 24 hour services: however, there is no set time that domestic violence occurs. It can even happen in the middle of the night with a woman being thrown out of the house by her husband, a very common occurrence. There is therefore need for financial capacity for a 24 hour service to be given.
There is also need for more advocacy around the speedy enactment of mandatory sentencing for sexual abuse cases which currently is very varied. Some perpetrators get 5 months, other 8 years and others have gotten as much as 50 years. And so there is need of some form of regulation to befit the crime and not leave it entirely to the discretion of the judge.
There are currently only three shelters offered by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development: in Gweru, Gwanda and Rusape Musasa has eight shelters. In comparison to the statistics available they are inadequate and there is need to build more of them. There is also need to offer holistic services to the women seeking help in the form of providing a safe space, counselling and health services.
Most importantly there is a need to deal with attitudes and beliefs regarding gender based violence. Women are regarded in many instances as inferiors in society and therefore violence towards them is considered as acceptable or necessary to keep them in place. Shockingly some women even condone the use of violence and agree that it is necessary in some instances. All these attitudes stem from socialisation, and therefore there is need for programmes that target young people as it is easier for their values to be shaped at this age. All these activities require funding.
Government alone cannot provide enough funds to tackle this massive problem of gender based violence which seems to have entrenched itself into our society. A lot more is needed and the onus is on us as well to raise the necessary funds through innovative means.