Strong Women’s movement needed to address gender based violence

Gertrude Pswarayi
Posted August 3, 2009 from Zimbabwe

The increase in cases of gender based violence, with women and girls as victims in the majority of cases requires that women in Zimbabwe build strong strategic alliances to strengthen a women’s movement that can mobilise resources, network and demand for an end to such practices.

Although a lot of efforts are underway in building a strong women’s movement, there are a lot of uncoordinated efforts which if such efforts were brought to one front would push women’s agenda a lot more. Women in politics for example seem not to be uniting with their counterparts in the civic society in addressing issues of violence against women and girls. Women in churches also seem to have a different view on issues of gender based violence. The value systems within churches may influence the way women in churches define gender based violence.

The political system in the country, in which opposing political candidates view each other as enemies, is making it even more difficult to build a united women’s movement. Yes, we have seen women representatives from both ZANU (PF) and the two MDC formations attending workshops and other public programmes together but this has failed to cover up the underlying differences that exist. More united efforts by women in politics and those from the church and non-governmental organisations must be seen on the ground so as to advance the women’s movement.

Like all other movements, the women’s movement is a political process, that is, it is about ideologies and the policies that flow from ideologies. It is about resources and how such resources are distributed. To address gender based violence, the women’s movement in Zimbabwe should address issues on the availability of resources to fight gender based violence including strengthening community reporting and referral systems and the establishment of effective judiciary system.

A women’s movement is a political process because it should address the substructure of ideas, beliefs, and assumptions that are polled in a certain set of power relations in society and therefore determine how resources are distributed. The movement has a strong agenda of changing the way resources are distributed.

In order for Zimbabwe to have a united women’s movement that can address effectively issues of gender based violence against women and girls, non-governmental organisations in particular, have to help build grassroots women's groups to participate as one unified women’s movement. Non-governmental organisations have to be catalysts in creating spaces for poor women to gather, mobilize, and organize.

Non-governmental organisations should also support grassroots women’s organizations, linking them together and helping transform them into a movement. They must also support women's groups to develop critical social change and action agendas. It is important that they do not to impose agendas but provide information, analysis, and alternative viewpoints about issues related to gender based violence.

Non-governmental organisations can also help grassroots women's movements to form alliances and partnerships with a range of other movements such as the youth movement, religious movement and political movements in order to change the agendas and perspectives of these other movements. If women have a formidable mass base they can't be ignored. However NGOs have tended to address women as beneficiaries of various kinds of economic development programs.

A strong women’s movement can help bridge the gap that exists between the rural women and those in urban areas, women from affluent families and those who are poor, women from the church and those who do not go to church. It can also bridge the gap between those who are straight and those from sexual minority groups. After all gender based violence knows no boundary.

A women’s movement therefore should strengthen the analyses of issues pertaining to women so that their rights are not seen as peripheral to other social issues. Women’s dialogue with different interests and other social groups, among women themselves and with other groups should also be strengthened.

By Gertrude Pswarayi

Comments 2

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  • Sharese
    Aug 17, 2009
    Aug 17, 2009

    Thank you for writing this post. I absolutely agree that in order to have a women's movement on a national level a nation must have all facets of women working together. Like you said, "gender based violence knows no boundary". This is so true. Gender based violence in just one segment of society affects all women of that society (and world-wide if we really get down to it).

    I wonder, though, is there one very specific issue that organizations could focus on that they could all agree needs looking at? (Domestic violence, rape, sex trafficing, health care for women and children are examples) That way the different women's groups could come together for one common factor but could in turn be strengthened in their other concerns as well??

    I know that Zimbabwe has about 13.5 million people, so that is a big number to try to mobilze- but I do wonder if there could be a blitz campaign (lots of low-budget media) of one specific topic to address that all the women's NGOs in the country can agree upon (or the vast majority).

    If we can get women passionate about one issue, uniting to overcome one obstacle... well then we got the ball rolling.

    I know that all of this is much much much easier said than done, and I know that the political situation is Zimbabwe is a tense one, but I thnk just starting the conversation and realizing that a women's movement is needed is a great step.

    Thanks for starting the conversation. Let me know how I can help in any way. Zimbabwe is close to my heart.

    Peace, love, and strength,


  • Gertrude Pswarayi
    Aug 20, 2009
    Aug 20, 2009

    Sharese, Thank you for your comment. It is possible to have a women's movement focusing on one issue e.g Sexual Rights, which encompass a wide range of issues ranging from sexual violence, trafficking, domestic violence and trafficking.

    The challenge we currenlt face in Zimbabwe is the question of how vibrant this women's movement can be. My assessment of the current women's movement in Zimbabwe is that limited resources and competiton in terms of getting donor funding for women's programmes is the greatest challenge. NGOs are failing to work wogether to advance the same agenda because they are competing for resources from donors.

    How best can this be addressed?

    Regards, Gertrude