Peer educators trained to identify abuse fight violence

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MANICALAND, Zimbabwe—Munashe Grey and Elijah Chipise, both 20 years old, are students at Magamba Vocational Training Centre in Manicaland, a province targeted by the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls.

Ms. Grey is a motivational speaker who dedicates most of her time to listening and speaking to young people.  

Mr. Chipise is one of the 15 peer educators who participated in a two-day training session conducted by Students and Youth Working on reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) with support from partners including Musasa Project and Magamba Health and Life Skills department for the Spotlight Initiative.

As a motivational speaker, Ms. Grey had always been interested in speaking on gender-based violence (GBV) but she was not adequately trained to tackle the subject. In this respect the training was particularly useful.  

“This training has equipped me to respond to questions on identification of abuse and places of safety and support,” she says. “Young women sometimes have difficulty in identifying abuse, and when they [do] know, they do not always know where to get help.”

With support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), under the Spotlight Initiative, the objectives of the SAYWHAT training were to improve knowledge levels of peer educators in areas such as GBV and harmful practices. It aimed to capacitate students as champions and agents of change in the eradication of GBV and harmful practices, as well as mobilizing female and male students to join the social movement of ensuring that women and girls can realize their full potential in a violence-free, gender-responsive environment.

At Magamba Vocational Training Centre, there is “a lot of abuse” in the form of sexual harassment often perpetrated by young men, says Mr. Chipise.

“There is a clear evidence of sexual harassment, which is not reported or documented due to fear and lack of knowledge. As peer educators, this training has made it possible to raise awareness within the institution and also among youth within our communities,” he said. “We can now support the most vulnerable and empower them to speak out.”

“The training clarified reporting and support structures. The trainees were sensitized on the importance of reporting and ensuring access to GBV services, including access to health services within 72 hours, which is critical for sexual violence,” Ms. Grey said.

A Musasa Project Family Therapist stressed the importance of men in the fight against GBV, as three quarters of men are perpetrators of GBV. She defined the roles that peer educators should play in information dissemination, demystifying issues that are associated with gender roles, as well as ensuring a smooth referral pathway for GBV survivors at their college.

Magamba Vocational Training Centre in Manicaland province is one of 10 tertiary institutions being targeted under the Spotlight Initiative, with the goal to end violence against women and girls in the tertiary institutions. The training gave peer educators an opportunity to propose activities they can implement on campus, to raise awareness and put an end to sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices.

Spotlight Initiative is a partnership between the European Union and United Nations and aims to end all forms of GBV and harmful practices and promote the sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) of women and girls. The Zimbabwe Spotlight Initiative country programme targets 11 million beneficiaries directly and indirectly, particularly rural women and girls, women and girls living with disabilities, and women living with HIV.

Sixty percent of the Spotlight Initiative country programme intervention will be implemented at community level in 23 districts in the five provinces of Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Manicaland, Matabeleland South and Harare.