By Joyce Mukucha
Katswe Sistahood has bemoaned the negative effects of the Covid-19 induced lockdown which disturbed the implementation of their fight against gender-based violence(GBV) under the Start Awareness Support Action (SASA)! Faith Initiative.
The organisation revealed that drug abuse amongst youths and the prevalence of teenage pregnancies were on increase during the unprecedented times of lockdown and stressed that it was of paramount importance for everyone to play a role in building effective ways that create a better world for everyone especially women and girls.
Speaking at a meeting held with Community Action Groups in Harare on the 26th of August 2020, Katswe Sistahood Programs Officer, Mufaro Mushunje said the SASA! Faith Programme which is supposed to be implemented under churches was hindered with lockdown restrictions and measures which limited church engagements and gatherings.
“We are trying the best we can to ensure that implementation of SASA! Faith Programme goes forward in curbing GBV in communities though it has not been that smooth due to Covid-19 lockdown conditions.
“We work closely with church leaders to spread the word of curbing GBV and violence against women and girls but we are facing hurdles because physical engagements are banned.”
Mushunje added that despite challenges being caused by the national lockdown, the organisation was striving to make sure that spearheading the SASA! Faith journey continues by making sure that church leaders and Community Activists are at the forefront of spreading the word of preventing violence through online platforms.
She reiterated that as individuals check the seriousness of COVID-19, there was also a need to check the seriousness of SGBV in society. Engaging in meaningful conversations, she said, would help to capacitate and advocate communities.
Supporting this, ZAOGA Forward in Faith leader in Epworth Pastor Enock Kapfumvuti said they were making concerted efforts to use online means to reach audiences although other groups were still left out because they do not have smartphones and others cannot afford data to access the Internet.
“As church leaders, we have created WhatsApp groups as a way of communicating to a larger group of people during the current lockdown. We conduct devotions and counselings via this platform. However, it is still a disadvantage to other groups because not everyone else is connected especially those who reside in rural areas. Therefore, we are witnessing cases of GBV increasing at both family and community level because we cannot meet everyone in person as compared to pre-lockdown period.”
Speaking at the same event, Victim Friendly Unit Epworth representative, Constable Kapesa said it was disheartening to note that cases of sexual violence on children were increasing during the lockdown.
He pointed out that the main reason is that children were not going to school, they spend most of their time roaming around where they then end up being abused.
Katswe Sistahood Programs Assistant, Paidamoyo Muganyi added that emotional, physical, sexual, and economic violence were fuelled by lockdown restrictions since families are struggling to make ends meet especially breadwinners who are expected to bring food to the table.
There was a strong link, she said, between COVID-19 and different forms of violence, thus, there was a need to focus on what can be done to create a violence-free society.
“Despite a plethora of challenges that are being caused by lockdown for SASA! Faith to function effectively, it is the role of Pastors and Community Activists to try their best in as much as engaging families is concerned. It is your duty to influence change and positive talks amongst different families so that they understand the importance of communicating issues and supporting each other during these difficult times,” she said.
Muganyi added that as people were now living in a new world with the new order, it was of paramount importance to communicate new survival strategies and approaches to ensure that all forms of violence are prevented.
SASA! Faith in an initiative in which leaders, members, and allies of religion come together to prevent violence against women and HIV. It involves a process of community mobilization – an approach and corresponding activities that engage everyone in living the faith-based values of justice, peace, and dignity.
It is being implemented by Katswe Sistahood as a way of curbing GBV in communities and the main communities of action are in Epworth and Kwekwe.