Gender-Based Violence in Zimbabwe
Gender-based violence continues to threaten the safety of millions of girls and women around the world while infringing upon their most basic human rights. According to the World Bank, gender-based violence affects one in every three women globally. Zimbabwe in particular is still struggling to combat this issue, but is working to find solutions. Though gender-based violence in Zimbabwe remains a major societal issue, organizations like the Musasa Project are providing hope for a safer future.

Consequences of Gender-Based Violence

Beyond its negative effects on survivors, gender-based violence is also damaging to economic and social structures as a whole. According to the World Bank, gender-based violence results in a loss of about 3.7% of a country’s total GDP. Failure to address issues impacting the well-being of women has also been proven to contribute to poverty. Poverty cannot be alleviated without the protection of and equality for women and girls around the world.

Gender-Based Violence in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, gender-based violence is especially prevalent. Nearly 50% of the country’s women have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. Meanwhile, one in three of these women have experienced physical or sexual violence before the age of 18.

Gender-based violence in Zimbabwe is so common that it is steadily becoming a normalized part of Zimbabwean culture; 48.6% of women between the ages of 15-24 years believe that “wife-beating” can be “justified under at least one condition.”

The Musasa Project

Hoping to educate Zimbabwean women about the injustices and abnormalities of gender-based discrimination, Sheelagh Stewart and Jill Taylor Musasa created the Musasa Project. Founded in 1988, this Zimbabwe-based NGO offers a wide range of support and relief services to survivors of gender-based violence. The organization also seeks to eliminate violence against Zimbabwean women by changing regressive laws, beliefs and practices perpetuating gender-based violence.

The Musasa Project offers valuable resources to about 3,000 Zimbabwean women every year including counseling services, legal aid, temporary safe shelters, medical assistance, educational programs and support through a toll-free helpline.

The Musasa Project’s most extensive work is its counseling services, which serve a high volume of emotional and physical abuse survivors every year. Many women also depend on the Musasa Project’s legal aid services and 24-hour telephone support line. In just three years, the Musasa Project attended to the cases of more than 14,000 women.

A Better Future

The organization is currently working towards expanding its educational resources to a broader population and offering programs designed specifically for those convicted of sexual assault and domestic violence. In doing so, the Musasa Project ultimately aims to reduce gender-based violence in Zimbabwe through awareness and education.

Though the Musasa Project only operates in four regional offices in the cities of Masvingo, Harare, Gweru and Bulawayo, its resources and services are making significant strides in reducing gender-based violence across the whole of Zimbabwe. Acknowledging that one of the most meaningful ways to create change is through law and policy-making, the project works closely with the Zimbabwean government to enforce laws pertaining to gender-based and domestic violence.

The Musasa Project’s plethora of resources for victims, perpetrators and the general public raises awareness about the injustices of gender-based violence and gains support for the eradication of this issue. This project and its multifaceted approach to protecting women and girls provides hope that gender-based violence in Zimbabwe will eventually vanish.

– Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr