Ruth Butaumocho Gender Editor
Government has deferred the setting up of safe homes for gender based violence victims to next year owing to lack of funds.
The country only has five safe homes, which are inadequate to provide temporary shelter to gender based violence victims, whose numbers continue to increase each day.
Although the Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Cde Oppah Muchinguri conceded in November that the provision of safe homes was a long standing programme that her ministry needed to urgently work on, however, the project might not take off sooner than expected, owing to lack of funds.
“It has also been Government’s wish to build shelter homes for the up-keep of sexual and gender based violence victims, so that we can lessen the burden on the civil society.
“However, we have not able to achieve the goal because the money has not been enough to cut across all our needs,” she was recently quoted.
The ministry’s budgetary allocation from the treasury increased by six percent from last year’s US$10,1 million to this year’s US$10,8 million. However, the increased funding will not be enough to cater for the setting up of safe homes, after it emerged that several programmes within the ministry that needed urgent attention did not get adequate funding.
Funding for gender mainstreaming – a crucial project within the ministry – was cut by 50 percent, while Treasury also reduced its allocation towards the Women’s Development Fund, aimed at funding women’s projects across the country.
What this effectively means is that the country will continue relying on the five safe homes, against a backdrop of spiralling gender based cases involving women and children.
A safe house is temporary accommodation that is provided by organisations like the Msasa Project to house victims of sexual and gender based violence while they are waiting for their cases to be dealt with either with the police or other institutions.
Speaking during the launch of a national rape campaign in Harare in December last year, the director of Musasa Project, Mrs Netty Musanhu highlighted the serious challenges of accommodating victims of gender based violence, particularly those who were often stalked by their partners before their cases could go to court.
“We are calling on the Government and other partners to assist us in setting up safe houses for the increased numbers of gender based violence victims.
“More often than not, we are often overwhelmed by the number of abused women, who visit our offices, seeking assistance,” she said.
The safe house concept is based on the premise that effective work against sexual and gender-based violence cannot be achieved without providing support and protection for survivors or victims of violence, who may experience all forms of abuse from their perpetrators before they have had time to heal.
Safe homes that are spouted in nondescript but different neighbourhoods across Zimbabwe have proved to be welcoming places for women and their children, who often arrive battered and with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
While the services offered at each safe home may vary from each safe home depending on the available resources, several of them offer a holistic approach that includes shelter, health care, food, group counselling, clothes for survivors of violence and their children.
They also offer self-defence and life skills and sometimes professional training in different fields.