First Lady interfaces with Masvingo men over issues tearing families apart First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa addresses men during an interactive session in Masvingo yesterday

Tendai Rupapa in MASVINGO

BOYS and men from all the districts in Masvingo Province yesterday turned up in their thousands for an oversubscribed engagement with the First Lady, showing how citizens have fully embraced her efforts to promote unity in homes, promote good health, fight mischief in youths, child marriages and curb all forms of domestic violence perpetrated mostly by men.

So huge was the gathering that some people had to follow proceedings from an overflow tent.

The mother of the nation advocates peace in the homes and has even introduced a national gender based violence 575 helpline in her office to fight gender based violence.

She has a passion to ensure Zimbabweans are morally upright and raise their families in peaceful homes to end social challenges like violence, divorce and other ills.

When she rose to speak, the First Lady observed a moment of silence in honour of Zion Christian Church members who perished in an accident during the Easter holidays.

She emphasised to men that they were heads of households who were expected to lead by example at all times.

“Men you are the heads of homes and your families. As women we have our concerns which we sought to discuss today. If a father gets to the extent of raping his daughter, is he still a father worth the title? Is a man who beats his wife a good man? Some children are now taking drugs but the father has no time of sitting down with the child. As women you would have exerted pressure on us. Murikutiregerera ana baba. Even during the cropping season the woman is alone in the rural areas farming but the man proceeds to market the crops like tobacco and cotton before blowing the proceeds without giving the women who worked. It is essential to plan together as a family.

“Children are ruined by drugs in this country and some take many days without waking up. But whose child is this doing all these things? As Zimbabweans we have our way of life and morals but our children are destroyed by Western cultures. 

“Even their language is difficult to understand. These children are our future leaders but will the country develop if children are lost to drugs. Besides drugs, in schools, are you aware that children are cohabiting in schools? Can diseases ever end with the current state of affairs? The way girls dress is stressful. They wear short clothes. Who is buying them these types of clothes, is it you parents?” she asked.

Amai Mnangagwa also spoke on men’s health.

“Some men are hiding their ailments from their wives in the home. Vana baba hanzi you are taking your pills from the offices and not coming out clear to your families. Health experts urge you to be visit health centres and get treated mese nana mai. Even when a woman is expecting, escort her to the clinic get screened and get tested together,” she said.

On gender-based violence, she implored couples to iron out their differences in peace.

“Men and women, you must stay in peace without violence. Some women are being bashed by men but do not report to the police fearing that they would suffer if the husband is arrested. Let us live in peace and love.”

The First Lady deplored the way some boys were dressing and remarked: “My sons you are putting on three or four trousers at once and moving with the whole wardrobe. Why do you keep them below the waist?”

In response, a young boy said they copied what they watched on television and social media. 

“It’s because we copy what we see on television or the Internet. Westernisation has killed us as young people and our morals are lost. Drugs have destroyed us,” he said.

The First Lady urged youths to make use of the Youth Bank and get loans to start projects. She advised them to work with the Ministry of Women Affairs for project proposals and skills training so that they are occupied and empowered and leave drugs.

Yet another boy said the way they dressed was a result of peer pressure.

A young man responds to First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s questions during an interactive session with men in Masvingo yesterday.

“The way we dress is because of peer pressure because girls rush for boys dressed like that. It is referred to as drip. These girls shun boys like us who dress properly. Therefore, to win the girl’s heart we are forced to dress the way they want,” he said.

The boys and men of Masvingo praised Amai Mnangagwa for her Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba programme, saying it helped mould children’s morals and said it was their humble plea to have the programme in schools so that children grow up well-cultured.

The province came up with resolutions which will be combined with those from other provinces.

“The Constitution should be reviewed with regards to corporal punishment, the traditional leadership as the custodians of culture should be roped in and play their part because preservation of our culture is important,” read some of the resolutions.

It was also agreed that the First Lady’s Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba programme be included in the school curriculum. 

“As Masvingo we say no to GBV. There is need for the programme to cascade to all communities and to be held regularly. Parents should have time with their children teaching them good manners.”

There were survivors of Sexual gender based violence who chronicled their abuses prompting those who were listening including the First Lady to fight back tears.

An 18-year-old heavily pregnant girl said her mother was stabbed to death by her father and he was jailed and saved his term. After coming out of prison, she said her father raped her several times and impregnated her. She was helped by neighbours to report to the police and the father ran away and is still to be arrested.

All the 49 chiefs from Masvingo province were present, showing the importance they attached to the First Lady’s intervention.

Various groups and individuals including Iyasa, Sabhuku Vharazipi and Mai Pesanai of the “Mira panzvimbo” fame provided entertainment and gave emotional acts on various social issues that include gender based violence and HIV and Aids.

Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Ezra Chadzamira sang praises to the First Lady for her unprecedented initiative.

“As Masvingo Province we are happy that Amai has come to meet us and teach us the proper way of living in the homes and in the country. We also want to thank her for all her programmes and projects around our country that are empowering communities,” he said.

The First Lady brought along speakers from various departments.

National Aids Council (NAC) representative Mr Raymond Yekeye acknowledged that they previously worked with women in various programmes before the move to engage men.

“As NAC in our programmes we previously mostly worked with women but we saw it prudent to work with boys and men so that we end HIV. Men usually kept their distance while pushing women forward yet HIV affects both partners. Men usually visit hospitals when the situation is serious and that is why our mother has come here with this countrywide programme to discuss with us as men and encourage us to seek treatment early.

“According to statistics, elderly men are bedding young girls and infecting them with diseases. Today is our day as men and let us be open and free to discuss health, domestic violence, child marriages and abuse among other issues,” he said.

Traditional chiefs follow proceedings during an interactive session male engagement with First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa in Masvingo yesterday

Similar sentiments were echoed by Mr Joseph Mupinga from the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development who advised men against engaging in gender-based violence.

“Let’s fight gender-based violence because it hinders us from concentrating on economic development, it affects family life and disturbs children in their studies seeing their parents fighting day and night,” he said. 

Mr Mupinga said there were many forms of GBV that included emotional, economic, sexual, verbal and physical.

“Most men neglect their families and not supporting them. Others sell properties without informing their wives or family that is economic violence. There is motional violence where men stress women. Most men have extra marital affairs and start ill-treating their families. We thank Amai for her instructive programme. We have many community projects lined up for you,” he said.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police said they had a Victim Friendly Unit which handled cases of gender-based violence to foster peace in homes, communities and the nation.

“As the Zimbabwe Republic Police, we work together with other stakeholders to fight GBV. We have a unit that specialises in such cases helping all those who come across such issues. Masvingo had 81 juvenile rape cases reported between January to March last year compared to 97 this year. On adults last year we had 31 but this year we have 38. All other sexual offences excluding rape were 100 last year but these have risen to 147. On domestic violence we had 131 cases last year, compared to 214 this year. Put together, last year we had 343 cases, compared to 496 this year,” the police said.

The statistics, the police said, were showing that such cases were on an upward trajectory hence the need to take action immediately.

A representative of the First Lady’s National Gender Based 575 toll free line Mrs Failess Matemba said Amai noted that it was essential to break the bias towards GBV and teach ubuntu/hunhu to younger generations.

“The First Lady, concerned with the ever-rising cases in gender based violence in Zimbabwe, launched the national gender based violence toll free line 575, which is operated directly from her office. The main thrust of this initiative is to eradicate any forms of violence relating to gender and foster peace in the domestic set up. Since the inception of the national gender based violence toll free line, statistics gathered show that women are mostly victims with men mostly being perpetrators. Most of these cases stem from contextual problems such as stress, lack of awareness on handling conflict, drug abuse, alcoholism and economic factors.” 

To address the challenges, the First Lady partnered service providers to offer counselling services, judicial and spiritual upliftment services. 

“The First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa has also gone a step further by empowering the victims of gender based violence by personally sitting down with couples, counselling them and if there is need assisting them with project empowerment, donating livestock such as chickens, rabbits and goats in a bid to promote peace in the domestic setup through productivity.

“As 575 we also receive third party callers, these are people who call on behalf of the actual victim because at times the victim cannot speak out or does not have the means to do so.”

The national gender based violence line opened by Her Excellency, it was emphasised, has been effectively addressing GBV issues to the extent that there are men who call seeking help on how they can refrain from repeating the same GBV offence after they are released from custody or not to violate their spouse’s protection order,” she said.

Chief’s council president Chief Fortune Charumbira praised the First Lady for her vision.

“This is unprecedented. We have never gathered in this manner so we must clap hands for our First Lady. We are grateful for this programme and I wish we could meet every two months for such discussions. If we do that, we will be able to end some of the challenges we face. This is our work as chiefs. The Constitution empowers us to do many things including facilitating development and resolving disputes. We frown upon gender-based violence among our people,” he said.

All the chiefs received food hampers and toiletries from Amai .

Also everyone who attended went home with some goodies including maize-meal courtesy of the First Lady.

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