EU, UN “spotlight initiative” inspires urgency to end violence against women, girls

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Zimbabwe's stakeholders converge to draw new transformative country programme 

16 April 2018, Harare - The European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) rolled-out a new multi-year, multi-million-euro global initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, called the Spotlight Initiative.                                                                                       

“The elimination of violence against women and girls is not only central to achieving Sustainable Development Gola number five (gender equality and women’s empowerment), but it is a pre-condition and driver to the achievement of the entire Sustainable Development Agenda,” said United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Bishow Parajuli opening a two-day multi-stakeholder consultation convened to develop  Zimbabwe’s Spotlight Country Programme. The consultation took place from  12  to 13 April 2018 at the UN offices in Harare .

In line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the joint EU-UN initiative will fully integrate the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ responding to all forms of violence against women and girls, with a focus on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices, femicide, trafficking in human beings and sexual and economic exploitation.

“The EU has allocated EUR500 million for the Spotlight initiative to end violence against women and girls,” said HE Philippe Van Damme, EU head of delegation and Ambassador to Zimbabwe.  Zimbabwe is selected as one of eight countries in Africa, one of 22 globally, to benefit from the Spotlight initiative to end violence against women and girls.

Latest surveys in Zimbabwe show the issue of violence against women and girls is endemic with one in every three women aged 15-49 having experienced physical violence since the age of 15 in Zimbabwe. In addition, 27% of women in the same age group have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. Harmful practices are also perpetuating with a child marriage prevalence rate of 32% in the country and one in every 10 adolescent girls giving birth every year.

“The UN in Zimbabwe, with great support from development partners, has been supporting laws, policies and programmes addressing violence against women and girls such as the Joint Programme on Zero Tolerance to Gender-based Violence 365, capacitating the Gender Commission and Anti-Domestic Violence Council,” said the UN Resident Coordinator. “The Spotlight Initiative presents an incredible opportunity to build upon our existing efforts and eliminate this scourge once and for all.”IMG_0343 (003)_0.JPG

Stakeholders and actors from across Zimbabwe representing over 50 institutions, including government led by the Office of the President and Cabinet and Ministry of Women Affairs; the UN entities; development partners; women’s movements; youth organizations; association of people with disability; other national and international non-government organizations; and the private sector came together at the consultation to inform the national country programme. Stakeholders deliberated the issue of violence against women and girls in Zimbabwe along the six key pillars of the initiative. The six pillars are: gender responsive laws and policies; gender-based violence protection and services; improved collection and use of data; and innovation as well as strengthening government institutions and women’s movements.

After two days of consultations, the draft country programme was presented to the Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Hon. Sithembiso Nyoni who fully endorsed the programme and committed government support, stating the six key pillars gave a good “balance to the equation in our joint efforts to elimination violence against women and girls in Zimbabwe.”

The European Union’s Head of Cooperation, Ms. Irene Giribaldi also endorsed the country programme outline and commended the efforts of stakeholders. “We are proud as the EU to be embarking on this initiative globally and in Zimbabwe to eliminate violence against women and girls.”

UN Women Country Representative Ms. Delphine Serumaga thanked stakeholders for their attendance and commitment. “I’m delighted to see so many representatives from Zimbabwean society here today, it is a testament to our ongoing joint efforts to end violence against women and girls in the country,” Ms. Serumaga. “Zimbabwe is under the global spotlight. This Initiative shows a serious investment in eliminating violence against women and girls in this country that has not been seen before. Together, we must illuminate this issue with renewed and focused investment and commitment.”

Zimbabwe Gender Commission Chairperson Mrs. Margaret Mukahanana – Sangarwe called for institutional strengthening. “This initiative provides an excellent opportunity to strengthen institutional response to gender-based violence, and sexual gender-based violence which is so pervasive and widespread across the country,” said Mrs. Mukahanana – Sangarwe. “We must work holistically and ensure each institution works complimentarily with each other to avoid duplication and increase efficiently in our efforts.”

African Union Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda who attended the consultation emphasized the need for community involvement and ownership of the Spotlight Initiative. “We must listen to the women and girls within the communities when considering initiatives such as this. There should be nothing for us without us, we must ensure their voices are heard and their inputs are recognized when it comes to formulating the national programme.”

“We must not forget to involve Men’s Movements in tandem,” added Embassy of Sweden’s First Secretary Angelica Broman. “Gender-based violence is as much of a man’s problem as it is a women’s issue. Men are and boys grow up to be the perpetrators. Male engagement and involvement must be central any behavior change programming.”

Ms. Netty Mushanu, Director of Musasa Project, a non-governmental organization that provides services to survivors of gender-based violence in Zimbabwe, spoke of the need to prioritize marginalized women in society. “There must be special focus and provisions made for those in the informal sector, sex workers and particularly disabled and mentally-impaired women and girls who do not have agency over their own voice, choice and control. We must leave no one behind.”

Representing Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe and National Association of Youth Organisations, Ms.  Emelda Vhiriri emphasized on capacity building of the many active women’s groups within the agricultural, religious and informal sectors to transform them into multiple social movements around gender-based violence, harmful practices and sexual and reproductive health and rights.