Silent pain – Rural women and GBV
By Florence Zirima
As the world is commemorating 16 days of Activism against gender based violence (GBV), a 28 year old rural woman who is a victim of GBV shares her miserable story which indicates that issues of GBV are rampant and they need to be constantly spotlighted to make a safe environment for women.
Statistics made by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicate that psychological violence remains the most frequent form (55 per cent of total cases) followed by physical violence (22 per cent of total cases), economic violence (15 per cent) and sexual violence (8 per cent). About 90 per cent of cases are intimate partner violence.
Meanwhile, the life of a divorced woman Susan (not her real name) who lives in Zvimba rural was not easy during the time when she was married.
In 2016, her parents who were struggling to make a living forced her to elope to a man who she was in love with even though she was not pregnant.
According to the same UN statistics, in most impoverished areas, de-prioritization of GBV services is increasingly recorded as access to daily income sources for household sustenance remains constrained despite the recent easing of lockdown measures.
Indeed the empowerment of women is very crucial for them to be independent and to overcome issues of GBV.
However, in the case of Susan, she was not employed neither did she have a small business that she could get income from.
Her life was even harder because her husband was also not employed.
Explaining her story, Susan said her husband used to beat her when noone was around at home.
“My husband was so abusive and he used to beat me when noone was home saying I was supposed to go and look for food to eat.
“I did not have any source of income but my husband expected me to bring food for everyone including his parents whom we were staying with”, she said.
Her husband threatened her not to tell anyone about how he was treating her.
Susan did not have a birth certificate at her age and one day when she went to get a birth certificate at a near growth point with her child, she came back late only to see that the food was not cooked and the water had not been fetched.
“When I came back from Murombedzi to get my birth certificate, I was shocked to see my in- laws together with my husband waiting for me to cook for them and fetch water from the borehole which was 2 km away from home.
“This was the worst experience in my life and it was only 2 months after I had given birth. I felt like going back to my parents because I was suffering”, she explained as she was weeping.
Life is even more difficult for married women when societal values shape the way they should make decisions. For Susan it was unbearable as she was not supposed to make any decision in the family.
When she told her husband that she wanted to go and visit her parents, he refused fearing that she could tell them the way he was treating her.
“When I asked my husband that I wanted to visit my parents he refused. This is when I wanted to run away to stay with my parents.
“After some time I heard people from the village saying my husband had a girlfriend whom he had impregnated.
“Then I realized that I was not loved and I was wasting my time living with him. I decided to leave and stay with my parents and I didn’t tell anyone about it.
“Right now I am thinking of going back to school to do my ‘O’ levels so that I look after my child. I think I have made a good decision to come and stay with my parents where noone raises a hand to beat me”, she said.
Risks of gender-based violence continue to intensify while the population is exposed to degenerating food insecurity, compounded by economic hardship and socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s 16 days of Activism against GBV theme is “Orange the world: End violence against women now”.