Ruth Butaumocho Gender Editor
At 15, Diana Hove discovered that she was pregnant and eloped to her boyfriend’s homestead, fearing the wrath of her father.
Eager to work on her marriage, despite her parent’s disapproval, Diana immediately took up all her husband’s family responsibilities, including fending for his siblings.
Before she even had time to settle in, she realised that her marriage was not what she had anticipated.
Ruthless beatings from her husband became the order of the day. Her in-laws did not make life any easier her, increasing her daily work load despite the fact that she was heavily pregnant.
For five years, Diana dithered between soldiering on with the union or returning home.
In the sixth year Diana – who now had three children – returned to her parents, who admonished her for her ill-timed decision to marry early.
Still smarting from the brutal effects of her marriage, Diana immediately looked for menial jobs in the community so that she could fend for her children.
One day Diana was attending to her daily paid menial work when the local headman informed her that she had been selected to undergo a life skills and entrepreneurship training programme for victims of gender based violence.
She was immediately put in a district cluster together with other victims of gender based violence. For a period of eight months, Diana alternated her time between the programme and running a vegetable stall, since she could no longer do paid menial work.
Today Diana now owns a retail shop in Goromonzi, in Mashonaland East, thanks to the Gender Links initiative to train and equip gender based victims with entrepreneurship skills.
She can now smile in between tears and momentarily forget about her bruises.
“I am no longer a victim of gender based violence, but an empowered businesswoman, who can determine her destiny,” she emphatically revealed in an interview recently.
She is among a group of 150 victims of gender based violence from several districts in Zimbabwe, who benefited from the Gender Links’ entrepreneurial pilot project being carried out in 10 countries in the southern region.
The pilot project targeted 1300 survivors of gender violence in 10 Sadc countries – Zimbabwe included – who, with the support of 100 Centres of Excellence for Gender in Local Government, underwent unique entrepreneurship training and life skills training programmes.
After they had received the training, the women enhanced their income by 60 percent from small seed capital they received from micro-finance institutions to start income generating projects of their choices.
The programme which started in 2013 and will continue running, albeit with new initiatives, has brought smiles to hundreds of victims of gender based violence.
Dubbed by many as “the school of healing” for gender based victims, the programme has helped victims redeem their self-esteem; assist them to become economically independent, while teaching them several life skills initiatives.
While most of its beneficiaries still bear physical scars following years of being brutalised, the majority say they are emotionally healed and can fend for themselves and their children.
“The scars are still there, but I am now emotionally healed. Dzangova ndangariro,” said Chipo Makoni from Chitungwiza, a beneficiary of the programme in her late 50s, who was in an abusive marriage for more than three decades.
She is now into candle-making, a project which she is running with her former abuser – her husband.
The majority of the women were identified by gender focal persons working in local authorities and the Ministry of Women Affairs Gender and Community Development, police victim friendly units and civic organisations that deals with the violation of women rights.
Gender Links country manager for Zimbabwe, Ms Priscilla Maphosa hailed the initiative as a step forward in reducing the effects of gender based violence in families and communities.
“It has been a successful project where women received capacity building in entrepreneurship and life skills and the results have been good.
“The beauty about this programme is we were able to create powerful synergies with several organisations including micro finance institutions and banks, among the ZB Bank, which gave loans to these women to start or boost existing income generating projects they had,” she said.
Through the initiative women enhanced their income by 60 percent; and now experience 85 percent less violence.
They also stated that their status in the family improved, enabling them to participate in decision making.
Ninety-three percent of survivors found that home life was greatly improved.
Gender Links estimates that it costs just R15 000 or $1 000 to take women through this life changing programme that transforms abuse to agency; despair to hope.
From 2013 to 2015, Gender Links worked with 1 500 survivors of gender violence in 10 Southern African countries to reclaim their lives through a ground breaking life skills and entrepreneurship training programmes anchored by 100 centres of excellence for gender in local government.
During the 2016 Season of Giving, that includes the 16 Days of Activism against gender based violence, we seek to expand this programme through public giving.
Public giving will now be done through Gender Link’s new initiative, Sunrise Campaign, where individuals, organisations and global funds can donate varying amounts towards the cause.
“For $1 000 or R15 000 you can change a life and work with us to break the cycle of violence. We aim to raise $100 000 which will reach 100 more women, and expand this to 1 000 more women in 2017,” said Gender Links executive director, Colleen Lowe Morna during the launch of the campaign in Zimbabwe last November, which coincided with the country’s national gender summit.
The scourge of gender-based violence remains a reality in the lives of many women in the world today.
It stands as a major cause of death and disability among women aged 15 to 44 years, and the United Nations estimates that at least one of every three women in the world is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise, abuse in her lifetime, usually by someone known to her.
The recent statistics released by the police show that there is an increase in domestic violence cases in Zimbabwe, particularly in Harare as compared to last year.
A total of 377 288 cases of domestic violence were recorded last year compared to 356 963 in 2015, which is a 20 percent increase.