People with disabilities trained on legislative, policy making

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In September 2017, the EU and the UN launched a partnership (Spotlight Initiative) to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls worldwide and to address the SRH needs of women and girls. In Zimbabwe, and on 11-12 October 2019, UNICEF conducted legislative and policy making training with representatives of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs), in Zimbabwe.  At the end of the workshop, a young woman who became deaf due to GBV perpetrated against her by her now ex-husband, privately narrated her story (which is outlined below), to UNICEF Disability Expert, Dr Christine Peta.

My name is Farai, I am a 24-year-old mother of one son.  I got married when I was 16 years old and at the age of 19, I had my son, who is now 5 years old.  I became disabled at the age of 22, when my husband beat me up for asking him to use a condom. Yet, he was sleeping around with other women in the neighborhood, and I was afraid of getting HIV. Just before my husband started beating me he said: A good African woman does not talk about condoms to her husband. Now you are talking about condoms because you are sleeping with other men.  The cows that I gave to your father as bride price were not wearing condoms, so why should I wear a condom.  I am a man, I can marry as many wives as I want.

A neighbor took me to the hospital and I realized that I was now unable to talk or to hear anything.  The doctor explained to me in writing that I was now deaf due to my now ex-husband’s beatings. I stayed in Parirenyatwa Hospital for three weeks. In the fourth week, I started to feel better and I was discharged from hospital and I went back home to my husband and son.

When my husband realized that I could not talk or hear anything, he was angry with me.  He wrote down what he was thinking so that I could read it.  He said: How can I live with a deaf wife, what do I need a deaf wife for?  It was never my plan to marry a deaf woman.  I have found another woman who can talk to me and hear what I say, so I am now going to live with my new woman.

I was deeply hurt, because I realized that this man was being very selfish. How can he say he cannot live with a deaf wife, yet he is the one who beat me up and I became deaf? 

Sometimes I think of committing suicide, but I am worried about what will happen to my son if I die.

Farai’s narrative provides evidence of the relevance of the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative in Zimbabwe, with its focus on eliminating all forms of GBV, HPs, and addressing the SRH needs of women and girls, including women and girls with disabilities. In addition, Farai’s story clearly indicates the ways in which gender, culture, disability and poverty intersect to frame the GBV, SRH and HPs experiences of women, including women with disabilities. Farai acknowledged that the training had created a platform for her to reflect on her own life experiences and she reportedly felt empowered to meaningfully contribute towards the GBV, SRHR and HPs policy and legislative making process in Zimbabwe.