5 December 2012

Tanzania: Enhanced Media Can Minimize Gender Abuses

IN commemoration of 16 Days of activism on Gender Based Violence (GBV), Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) - Zanzibar in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will from today (Dec 5, 2012) run series of media training for reporters to enable them work more efficiently in the campaign to eliminate Violence Against Women.

TAMWA is one of the leading pressure groups in Tanzania promoting the rights of women and children, while UNFPA) is a UN organization which is involved in promoting the rights of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity.

By running media workshops, TAMWA coordinating officer in Zanzibar Ms Mzuri Issa says reporters are set to ensure that those at risk (Women) are aware of their rights, their voices are heard, and the protection available.

"The plan is working with the media in Zanzibar to raise awareness of the causes and consequences of gender-based violence, which has been further exacerbated by ignorance, poverty, increased moral decay, and timidity to report cases," Mzuri said.

Zanzibar still suffers from high rates of GBV, according to statistics from the police, health centres (one-stop-centre), judiciary (including Kadhis Court), law associations, and the Ministry responsible for Youths, Children and Women development.

Ms Kona Omar, 40, a mother of three children was recently beaten by his husband for leaving the house without getting permission, "I had to rush my son to the hospital after falling sick. I did not inform my husband until I returned home."

"My husband was furious about it and I was very afraid of him, he slapped me several times in my face, and forced me to leave the house with my children," said Kona nursing her left hand hurt when trying to block a blow from reaching her face.

Kona is just one of many women to have experienced gender-based violence in Zanzibar, and in this yearâ - survey by TAMWA about three hundred cases of violence against women were reported across the islands, just around two per cent of which went to court.

Many women in Zanzibar believe GBV continue, and only few cases are reported in the media because journalists and pressure groups have not given sufficient attention to the abuse stories and that many women and girls suffer in silence for a long time.

Activists say that Genderbased violence involves men and women, in which the female is usually the target, and is derived from unequal power relationships between men and women. Violence is directed specifically against a woman because she is a woman or affects women disproportionately. It includes, but is not limited to, physical, sexual, and psychological harm.

The most pervasive form of gender-based violence is abuse of a woman by intimate male partners. Sociologists explain further that Gender-based violence includes: battering, intimate partner violence (including marital rape, sexual violence, and dowry/ bride price-related violence, sexual abuse of female children in the household and early marriage.

Forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FBM)/cutting and other traditional practices harmful to women, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in school and elsewhere, commercial sexual exploitation, and trafficking of girls and women are also in the list of GBV.

In 1995, the UN expanded the definition to include: violations of the rights of women in situations of armed conflict, including systematic rape, sexual slavery, and forced pregnancy; forced sterilization, forced abortion, and coerced or forced use of contraceptives; and prenatal sex selection and female infanticide.

The global community typically groups these abuses into three categories: Family Violence: The most widespread type of violence against women. This includes any abuse that occurs within the family context where the perpetrator is known to the girl or woman.

Common examples are spousal beatings; marital rape; forced marriage; sexual abuse of a girl by a father, uncle, or stepfather; and verbal abuse and trauma related to dowry" and "not giving birth to a son". Community Violence:

This includes violence at the hands of a perpetrator unknown or unrelated to the woman and often comes in the form of rape, sexual harassment, forced prostitution or trafficking, and public humiliation. State Violence: This includes violations that are condoned and committed by individuals associated with the government.

This is often seen in the form of violence at the hands of police, prison guards, refugee camp guards, border officials, and even peacekeeping troops. In conflict regions of the world, systematic rape and sexual violence is often used as a tool of war.

Raising awareness Ms Asha Abdi, an official from TAMWA argues that trainings on GBV for reporters and awareness seminars for women may be workable means in helping in minimizing abuses, and that to empower those at risk (Women) by providing them with important knowledge about violence, child abuse, gender, rights, health services and legal procedure is important.

"We are starting to improve the knowledge of journalists, as we continue with awareness forums in rural villages. So far, we have reached about seven thousand people including very few men, mainly rural areas with wider impact as the level of human rights among women and men has been increasing," said Asha.

She said that it is high time volunteers show up and work with communities to help stop abuse in respective areas, including talking about the benefits of gender equality, respect of human rights, and helping to change attitudes towards violence in the home.

Asha says, "It is high time for artists, celebrities, comedians, politicians, and various state actors to enhance the vital awareness-raising efforts of activists, and also to help strengthen the enforcement of the existing laws.

Ms Fatma Saleh from the Zanzibar Females Lawyers Association (ZAFELA) joins other activists supporting that giving women more voice will help minimize gender discrimination and crimes such as rape, child marriage and neglect.

"Participation in decision making groups such as in politics, and parliament are means to empower women to confront all kinds of challenges that they face. When women are not powerful enough and their voices are not heard, they are not considered," Fatma said.

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