Religious leaders in Bulawayo have endorsed the Start Awareness Support Action (SASA) faith programme which seeks seeks to eradicate all forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in churches.
SASA faith is spearheaded by Emthonjeni Women’s Forum and focuses on GBV prevention strategies in religious institutions after it was noted that various norms and religious practices promote GBV.
Speaking during a meeting convened by Emthonjeni Women’s Forum, Thursday, Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches and Zionists in Africa (UDACIZA) coordinator, Annah Ngwenya said they have realised that some of their doctrines fuel GBV.
“Gender Based Violence is caused by some of the church doctrines for example polygamy which also perpetuates violence in homes,” said Ngwenya.
“Even child labour was experienced in our church while other children will be in school, some remain home doing businesses.
“Even child abuse was experienced, some never sent children to school so that they can perform duties meant to be done by old people,” she said.
Ngwenya said through the program they are now able to speak out against violence.
“Through the programme we are now able to speak for the voiceless to stop some of these doctrines which are not good.
“Our children are now going to universities and graduating which is a big change, even pastors and other men in church are now being educated about the advantages and disadvantages of some of the church doctrines through SASA faith. They are now aware of the disadvantages of polygamy and how it disturbs peace at home,” said Ngwenya .
She added that as apostolic believers they are now able to speak in communities about GBV issues.
“As apostolic believers we are now able to speak out as communities when someone is being violated instead of keeping quiet especially the challenge that we used to experience of early child marriages which led to high death rates,” said Ngwenya.
Pastor Shellah Bhunu from the Presbyterian Church said through the programme they are now able to speak out about issues of violence as female pastors.
“The programme is an insight to us as pastors because when someone came to us saying I have been beaten we could just say kneel down and pray, we prioritised the bible more forgetting what happens at church and in communities.
“As women pastors we are physically abused by our husbands but when I have to go to church I just say I have a toothache or headache, but through the programme we are now able to speak out,” said Pastor Bhunu.
She added: “Sexual abuse is even high amongst pastors and even emotional abuse, we are rejected from working as pastors.
“Most Christians are abused and if we look at the HIV rate it is very high amongst Christians because we do not speak out against the violence we experience,” she said.
In addition, Reverend Japhter Sibanda from United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) said they are now able to prepare sermons around issues of gender based violence.
“As churches through the programme we are now able to prepare sermons around issues of gender based violence,” he said.
“Even in our bible studies we are now able to discuss issues around gender based violence so that we spread the word that violence is not right.
“We have established that the root cause of GBV are norms and values as the people so we are now even trying to address these issues at an early stage as Sunday school,” said Rev Sibanda.
Meanwhile, Nomzamo Ncube from Emthonjeni Women’s Forum said the programme is also targeting people living with disability.
“We are not only targeting able bodied people but we also work with people living with disability so that when they face issues within their faith spaces they get assisted and referred to where they can get help,” said Ncube