Youth Invest (YI) calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to prioritize addressing violence against women and girls in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
This call is being made on the occasion of the International campaign of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence which is commemorated annually from 25 November to 10 December with the aim to stop violence against women and girls.
On 25 November, we raise awareness on violence against women through commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The campaign ends on 10 December where we celebrate the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
This year’s 16 Days of Activism against GBV comes at a time where Zimbabwe and particularly Hwange District are battling the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 due to the Covid-19 induced lockdowns.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women and girls was among the most prevalent violations in the country, including in Hwange District. The public health Covid-19 prevention and containment measures introduced by the government saw men and women spending more time at home due to closure of tourism businesses. This led to an upsurge of physical, economic and emotional violence against women and girls – the shadow pandemic. In Hwange District, the Shadow Pandemic has been manifesting itself through girl-child neglect, physical and sexual assault. The cases have been fluctuating between 40% and 80%.
Women and girls are usually disproportionately affected during humanitarian situations, hence the need to prioritize the rights and needs of women and girls in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Youth Invest, therefore, urges the Government of Zimbabwe to invest in pandemic preparedness through providing clear socio-economic support for women and families in Victoria Falls and Hwange. Such an economic litigation measure will see poverty reduction, improved maternal and child outcomes, as well as, reduction of intimate partner violence.
Youth Invest further reminds the Government of Zimbabwe of its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which provide for the protection of women and girls. Furthermore, Youth Invest stresses the importance of supporting survivors of GBV in their recovery and the full attainment of their rights as espoused in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
As we work towards investing in pandemic preparedness, the need for Government of Zimbabwe to employ a multi-stakeholder approach to address the underlying drivers of violence- harmful norms and practices cannot be understated. A gender-sensitive approach in emergency preparedness is crucial in ensuring that no one is left behind in combating GBV and the spread of COVID-19.