By MELUSE KAPATAMOYO
At only 12, the life of Brilliant Muyuwa was brought to an abrupt and brutal end when she was defiled and strangled early this year.
Brilliant's death made headlines in the media and also attracted the attention of high profile people like First lady Dr Christine Kaseba, who travelled to Masupelo village in Chibombo to attend her funeral.
Since then Chibombo has remained in the spotlight and many more cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) have surfaced. However, civil society organisations are keen to see a reduction and eradication of GBV cases in the area.
Recently, the Zambia Social Forum (ZAMSOF) and its partners; Alliance for Community Action on HIV and AIDS in Zambia (Alliance Zambia), Action Aid, Sight Savers and Oxfam in Zambia held a National Forum aimed at making known the new Anti- Gender Based Violence Act and raising awareness on GBV to people in Chibombo and neighbouring areas.
ZAMSOF is a network of civil society organisations which is part of the World Social Forum of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), an open space for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, free exchange of experiences and interests for effective action.
The national forum was flagged off with a march past led by the vice-presidents wife, Charlotte Scott, ministers spouses, representatives from the first lady’s office, members from various civil society organisations and community members. It was held under the theme ‘Gender Based Violence, Child Rights and Abuses.’
Issues on the agenda included, HIV & AIDS, maternal neonatal, children health and voluntary medical male circumcision, climate and environment, youth and labour, governance, human rights, including the right to land and women’s rights.
Mrs Scott said it was impossible to achieve any meaningful development amid a society which experiences injustice and violation of human rights due to GBV
“More police posts should therefore be equipped with facilities to ensure this is a reality. Distance should not be a barrier to the course of justice and recourse in our communities so that women and children are adequately protected. As Zambia celebrates its 49th year of independence, the commemorations need to move the country to another level of social justice and wellbeing should lead to reduced GBV cases,” said Mrs Scott.
For children who are victims of abuse and violence, which includes witnessing violence that is inflicted on other members of the household, this affects their mental, physical, and emotional development. It also affects their capacity to realise their aspirations and contribute to the development of the country.
Mrs Scott added that, “We know the role that women play in the country, not only in social but also economic development and if we are taking the people who are leading that process and we put them into lives of anxiety, of fear, of pain, of rights abuse then the country can’t go anywhere.”
Recent statistics from the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) indicate that cases of GBV are still on the upswing. About 3, 733 cases were reported between January and June 2012.
NGOCC Executive Director, Engwase Mwale noted that “It is an undeniable fact that GBV reinforces the inequalities and iniquities between women and men and therefore compromises, not just the health of the victims, but also the dignity, the security and autonomy of the victims.”
She said because women and children had continued to be victims of brutal killings, rape, defilement, incest and other forms of abuse, the fight against the vice needed commitment and concerted efforts from different stakeholders if Zambia was to see a reduction in such cases.
“We are here (Chibombo) to be able to commit to work with the traditional leaders that their voice is important to end the negative cultural practices if we are to win the fight against GBV. And as a women’s movement, we are requesting the traditional leadership to ban early marriages in their chiefdoms. Early marriages have repurcations on the girl-children because it keeps them away from schooling,” pleaded Mwale.
She called on government to allocate adequate resources in the 2013 national budget so as to address the issue of shelter for survivors of GBV and also resources that will go towards putting together a gender based violence fund that will cushion the survivors of GBV.
And Alliance for Community Action on HIV and AIDS in Zambia (Alliance Zambia) Policy and Advocacy Manager, Reverand Malawo Matyola directly called on women not to live in fear but report cases of Gender Based Violence to relevant authorities.
“In our African setting, your neighbour’s child is yours too. Because that is your child too, if you notice that child is showing signs of abuse, it is your duty to report the case to authorities and if possible take the victim to the hospital,” Matyola advised.
However, he also urged health workers to be tolerant and patient with victims of GBV.
Matyola condemned an incidence where a young girl was harassed by police on her way to the hospital to collect Ante-retro viral drugs (ARVs) when she was accused of promiscuity.
“Because of the long distance to the centre, this young girl started off to the clinic as early as 04:00 but was stopped by police who accused her of being promiscuous. Such situations should not be allowed to happen. The girls’ only response was ‘I wish I was the causer of this disease, but I was born with it.’ Colleagues in the police force and clinics, let’s be friendly and render the help these victims need,” he added.
Recognising the importance for Civil Society to address GBV, Child Rights and abuses in communities, Alliance Zambia places great importance on the rights of pregnant women and children under the age of 5, to ensure they are not abused.
With support from Save the Children Sweden (SCS) the organisation is currently contributing to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5; to reduce mortality and morbidity rates for children under five years old in Zambia by 2014 by two thirds and to promote safe motherhood and improve maternal health in Zambia by 2014 and reduce maternal mortality by three quarters respectively. This project is being implemented in Mungule (Chibombo) and Mandevu (Lusaka) through close collaboration with the healthcentres in the respective sites.
In Zambia, cases of mothers miscarrying due to GBV and others who die while pregnant due to the same vice are common.
The National forum which was organised by Zambia Social Forum, under the secretariat of NGOCC, Women for Change (WfC) and Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) also provided eye screening checkups, Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) and testing, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), Male Medical Circumcision and information on Economic Empowerment.
ZAMSOF has been successfully organizing the annual National Social fora in towns and communities of Lusaka, Choma, Kapiri-Mposhi, Monze, Mansa and Chipata since 2003.
One of its many objectives includes improving participation of the general citizenry in the policy making processes of the area Members of Parliament by ensuring those peoples’ voices are registered at the national, regional and continental levels.
“Our mission is to promote and facilitate sustainable, socio-economic Development through collaboration and networking among NGOs, Community Based Organisations (CBO’s) and other stakeholders,” explained ZAMSOF chairperson, Mary-Tembo Mhango. PYM