Emthonjeni Women’s Forum says there is a need to increase Gender-Based Violence (GBV) awareness in churches so that women can speak out on the abuses happening in their different denominations.
This came out during women and girls’ symposium which was attended by women from different churches together with different service providers including Musasa, Childline, Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of youth, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Trocaire, Wednesday, in Bulawayo.
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting which was part of the international women’s day commemorations under the theme ‘speak out’, Director for Emthonjeni Women’s Forum, Sikhathele Mathambo said GBV is one issue that is never talked about in churches.
“We are hosting the women and girls’ symposium, the aim is to bring service providers under one roof so that so that women can access services concerning sexual reproductive health as well as sexual gender-based violence, so it is bringing the service providers so that the women can have an opportunity to access those services whether it is in terms of information or actual services,” said Mathambo.
She said there is a realisation that there is an increase of GBV cases amongst Christian denominations.
“You will realise that we have lawyers providing legal services, we have Musasa providing counselling services and advice as well, so we have all the various partners that we have today enabling women during the women’s month to access those services that ordinarily they would have probably have to go to their offices but in this instance, we are bringing them under one roof,” said Mathambo.
“We often speak of GBV and sexual reproductive health rights targeting just ordinary women but we also had a realization that 90 percent of our women in Zimbabwe are all Christians or purport to be Christians and we felt we needed to get into the Christian community realising that GBV is on the increase.”
She added that they are also targeting marginalised areas encouraging women to speak out on issues of GBV happening in churches.
“We are working in rural areas with the same program, we are in Insiza, we are looking at all churches probably what we call our African churches with an African background the Apostles, Zion churches and convectional churches as we are targeting all types of churches, we are encouraging people to speak out on the abuses that are happening within the churches,” she said.
Also, a gender activist Prisca Dube said church women tend to be more reclusive and rarely open up about issues affecting them.
“Indeed it has been realised that knowledge levels among church women are not at par with women that are outside the church, traditions within the church were inhibiting them to say if there is any abuse to go and report. The idea would be to tell someone in church then we pray about it rather than seeking the services that are necessary to end GBV,” she said.