People with mental health problems are not spared from gendered based violence. There situation is made worse by the fact that they are often placed at the periphery of society and issues that affect them are never taken seriously.
As part of its efforts to address this major concern the Sexual Rights Centre, a non-profit making grassroots organisation that works to advance the sexual rights of marginalised groups conducted a one-day training workshop on 24 November at Ingutsheni Central Hospital, a psychiatric hospital based in Bulawayo.
The workshop was one of the activities that fall under the organisation’s programme on sexual and reproductive health rights for women living in institutions.
The workshop targeted 15 women with mental health problems and the objective of the workshop was to raise awareness on the impact of violence against women including those with mental health problems.
The Director for the Sexual Rights Centre, Mrs. Sian Maseko said that her organisation has been working with women who live with mental health problems at Ingutsheni Centre Hospital for the past two years.
“Our programme is framed by the fundamental right that every person has the right to dignity and self-determination. Our work at Ingutsheni has showed that there is pervasive stigma and discrimination against women living with mental health illnesses and this has resulted in high levels of abuse and exploitation,” she said.
Mrs Maseko said that the vulnerability of women with mental health problems is made worse by the fact that there is limited and ineffectual legal protection for them. She added that the exclusion of their needs and concerns from the women’s movement is an issue that the Sexual Rights Centre seeks to rectify.
The Sexual Rights Centre offers a wide variety of services to marginalised and vulnerable groups concerning sexual rights including access to information and services, recreation, skills-building, capacity strengthening and advocacy.
During the workshop theatre, music and dance were used because of their power to actively engage audience and because they also provide some form of therapy.
“We use theatre, music, visual art and poetry to stimulate dialogue and reduce stigma through awareness-raising and lobbying in the community,” said Mrs Maseko.
This year’s theme for the 16 Days of Activism against Violence Against Women is Commit – Act - Demand: We CAN End Violence Against Women!
The 16 Days of Activism is a global campaign to raise awareness on the injustice of violence against women – and a call to all of us to take action!16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence 2009