By Takemore Mazuruse
When the first Covid-19-induced lockdown was effected in March last year, many felt the pinch and the pressure was just too much for the average earning man in a generally challenging economic environment.
Not only did the lockdown strain the pocket, it also strained marital relations whereby couples were now spending hours on end within the same vicinity and environs unlike was the case in an open economy where they would spend the day at work, come home to some good evening hugs and kisses, dinner and good night’s rest and again off to work the next morning.
Given that gender-based violence (GBV) has for long been a challenge in most Zimbabwean homes and communities, the sudden change of routines and the closed economy created a breeding ground for spiralling cases of GBV and Padare Enkundleni Men’s Forum had to embark on various initiatives aimed at raising awareness and reducing the incidences of violence against women and children.
Padare Enkundleni Men’s Forum programme officer Paul Vingi said the organisation embarked on a number of initiatives aimed at educating the public on the dangers of GBV during the 2020 lockdown period including the three-month Oxfam Appeals fund project, which focused on Caledonia in Harare.
In spite of all those milestones and initiatives, Vingi said he felt the 2021 lockdown would require even more widespread campaigns so that gender- based violence is curbed and peace is maintained in Zimbabwean homes.
“In 2020, we had to think outside the box in our quest to educate members of the public on the dangers and risks of gender-based violence particularly given the marked rise in the number of cases we were noting and receiving from our project areas and the various counsellors who are part of our programme network,” Vingi said.
“Given the lockdown situation, direct community engagement was a challenge, so we had to enlist the services of respected influencers, including musicians, sportspersons and parliamentarians, to add their voices to our call against gender-based violence.
“We recorded scripted jingles and audio visuals which were broadcast on national radio and TV during prime time for public education and risk awareness.
Various radio programmes which detailed more on what GBV entails and how victims could be assisted were also aired on various radio stations, with mainstream print media stories detailing the same and the feedback and results we got was amazing,” he said.
Vingi said their organisation was happy to have received further support under the Oxfam Appeals funding for another three-month campaign towards the end of 2020, which focussed on Caledonia, an informal and densely-populated area in Harare where cases of GBV were on an abnormal high.
“Even after the authorities lifted the lockdown restrictions, GBV remained a challenge since this is an embedded societal ill in our communities and, as Padare Enkundleni Men’s Forum, we had to apply for funding to scale up awareness in targeted hotspots,” he said.
“The initial plan was to target most high-density suburbs in Harare, but we are happy to have received funding to reach out to Caledonia with key messages on fighting GBV. The programme focused on kicking out GBV at the same time encouraging men to help their women with unpaid care work in the homes.”
Padare Enkundleni Men’s Forum national director Walter Vengesai said GBV remained a big scourge threatening family ties as well as the welfare of women and children in general. In as much as he was happy with the project output for the Appeals funding from Oxfam against GBV in Caledonia, Vengesa believed the organisation could do more with further support.
“As Padare, we have always encouraged men and women to contribute to gender justice. In Caledonia we were targeting men and boys to avoid violence and to find alternative ways of resolving violence because GBV is not good for family health and peace,” Vengesai said.
“We also encourage men and boys to take part in unpaid care work at home. Padare believes that domestic gender roles should not be a reserve for women and for that reason we were also encouraging men to help their women in the home, particularly at a time the lockdown has caused so much pressure on them.
“In areas like Caledonia, women are more at risk from GBV and Covid-19 as they have to bear the brunt of looking for water, household chores and other economic pressures.”
Vengesai said GBV and the unpaid care work programme factored all the pressures that women had to content with, including running market stalls which also put them at higher risk of contracting Covid-19, hence the need for men to also play their part.
“The project factored all the pressures that women have to contend with including running market stalls and going to crowded places in their quest to provide and manage the well-being of their families. For that reason we had to promote male participation in household gender roles at the same time educating them on the dangers of violence against women and children,” he said.
“We are really thankful to Oxfam for this support and it is our hope that more support comes our way so that we can effectively roll out this programme in other parts of Harare and Zimbabwe. The need is even higher now, particularly given the unforeseen January 2021 lockdown situation which came after many had squandered their little savings from the previous year.”
Thando Makubaza, Padare-Enkundleni Men’s Forum programmes development and fundraising manager, said the organisation would look at ways to get funding so that they effectively adapt and roll out their programme in view of the lockdown situation.
“We will have to be dynamic as an organisation and we will continue with our partner engagements for funding to fight GBV and where need be we will have to be dynamic enough to adapt and tailor-make available funding for effective community engagement and outreach,” she said.