By Joyce Mukucha
As the Covid-19 pandemic escalates with restricted movement amid stay-at-home measures to contain the spread of the pandemic, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) has noted with great concern the increase in domestic violence.
The chances of informal traders and vendors being exposed to domestic violence in homes is being dramatically increased by the acute impact of COVID-19 lockdown – with hunger, stress, disruption of social and protective networks among other factors fuelling the vice.
Pleading with the Government to intervene and provide mechanisms that support informal traders, the ZCIEA Secretary-General, Wisborne Malaya said increased economic hardships posed by the pandemic and the resultant decreased access to services were exacerbating the risk of citizens suffering violence.
Statistics of domestic violence are spiking as family members spend more time in close contact and household stress intensifies, and the risk grows even greater when families also have to cope with potential economic or job losses.
Malaya said, “The COVID-19 lockdown has heavily affected the informal workers and traders, in particular the vendors. We have seen many people that are now locked in the homes. They are now suffering from hunger and stress resulting in the sharp rise of domestic violence as well as the abuse of drugs by young people.
“So we are urging our government to quickly come in and assist these people with basic food support so that they can continue with their day to day lives,” said Malaya.
As a way of reducing domestic violence, Malaya stressed that it was also important for the government to consider setting up online counseling hubs to assist people who are encountering challenges in homes to access online communication for help and first-line support.
Additionally, he said Government ought to ensure that the recapitalization support which is yet to be extended to people was easily accessible and encouraged for an expedient approach to ensure that people can quickly go back to their normal way of living post lockdown.
He further said it was imperative for the government to urgently put in place a policy framework that recognises and regulates the operations of the informal workers.
Mechanisms and policy frameworks, he indicated, was crucial for individuals subjected to violence during these unprecedented times.
“This is key because it helps the government to monitor and manage informal workers when it comes to issues of disaster management and developmental processes where social protection will end up becoming a need and also a platform which has been set for each and every Zimbabwean citizen to benefit.”
If this is done properly, he said, ZCIEA believes that challenges of domestic violence and other encounters that are being currently experienced by citizens especially the informal traders and vendors can be reduced.
Considering that most of the informal traders and vendors survive on a hand-to-mouth basis, Malaya sadly noted how worrisome it has become witnessing people going back in the streets to sell as they are trying to earn a living and put food on the table.
He urged the government to make a concerted effort and take an urgent step to address the scenario.
“We are a bit worried about the rate at which people are going back into the streets to sell as they are trying to look for food to eat. If the government quickly intervenes, it can curb the going back of people into streets during this lockdown.”