Article by Prisca Pfunye
Human rights have been a topical issue in Zimbabwe and quite a number of civil society organizations and other collectives have been fighting against the violation of human rights. This time around, Youth for Innovation Trust (YIT) roped in Umahlekisa Comedy Club to raise awareness on social ills that affect the promotion of human rights through a project called Humor for Social Change. This women’s month, YIT and Umahlekisa hosted a #balanceforbetter weekend where they tackled gender based violence under the Humor for Social Change project and through a Young Women’s Convention and a Comedy show held at Small City Hall in Bulawayo.
Held under the hashtag #SafeSpacesNow, the convention brought together young women from across Bulawayo’s tertiary institutions and different communities. The event was also graced by young organizations working in Bulawayo that include Voice of the Voiceless (VOVO), Youth-led Innovative Engagement with Leadership and Development (YIELD), Trans Research and Empowerment Trust (TREAT) and Eddien Sports Trust who showcased and shared the works that they are doing to promote safe spaces for young women in Bulawayo. There were also local artists who displayed their crafts and performed acts inline with the theme.
In a panel discussion, the young women explored what Gender Based Violence (GBV) is and means to them. They acknowledged that GBV is a two way thing since the male can be the one abusing the female partner or the other way around. It was revealed gender based violence can take the shape of domestic violence and intimate partner violence as well. Different forms of GBV have been and still are exerting themselves on young people at home at school, work and even on the streets. In tertiary institutions sexual violence by lecturers is rampant as well. GBV arises from social, cultural and religious practices that subordinate women, it reflects and reinforces differences between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of victims. It serves to perpetuate male power and control and is sustained by culture of silence and denial.
In a measure to include different dynamics of GBV in conversation, the Humor for social change project then held a comedy show during the same weekend bringing young people across Bulawayo together. Through standup comedy, poetry and music, young people expressed their experiences on GBV and how it is intensifying social inequalities between genders, thereby causing psychological problems among others that have health implications such as the spread HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. There is need for victims of GBV to speak out and seek justice in order to reduce its persistence. GBV is a violation of human rights and should be condemned in the home and the society at large.