WITH some indications of distress in the fight against Gender Based Violence in Zanzibar, activists in the island are already having hope that the implementation of 'Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (GEWE), a new project will help combat the social problem.
It is a misery that Gender Based Violence (GBV), which includes sexual, economical, physical and psychological abuses, continues on the Muslim dominated islands of Zanzibar.
Islam prohibits any form of violence against women, but it is unfortunate that members of the society have ignored the teachings. Women rights activists on the islands are now taking off with the GEWE project in North Pemba and North Unguja, where studies show that GBV cases are still on the rise and the level of awareness about menace is still low compared to other parts in the islands.
According to Ms Asha Abdi, one of the programme coordinators in Zanzibar, GEWE project is being implemented by the Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA). "We are happy with the project at this time when our ambition is to intensify war against GBV," she said.
She says the project started with a baseline study, before continuing with other components like educating the society on selected areas and journalists in the islands on GBV so as to build awareness and enable combating different forms of GBV. "We have been recording success in the war against GBV, but more awareness to members of the public and journalists will speed up different changes in our society aiming to make Zanzibar safe place for women," said Asha.
Activist Asha said that TAMWA was working together with Zanzibar Lawyers Association (ZAFELA) to implement the two years project which include making women know their rights and protect themselves against violence. Asha said, "We expect individuals, community and political groups, NGOs and the government will support the GEWE II project because the target is to end all different forms of gender violence affecting women and children in the society."
Asha says that the overall objective of GEWE II also implemented in the Tanzania mainland is to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of women in Tanzania through support that promotes gender equality and empowerment of women. She said that the knowledge is inevitable because GBV is linked to a combination of patriarchal gender norms, lack of law enforcement, lack of knowledge of rights and economic and social discrimination that give privilege to men over women.
Economic marginalisation of women has also proved to reinforce patterns of gender inequality that tend to make girls and women more vulnerable to GBV, because they have no financial power and resources to free themselves from their abusive marriage, to confront cultural practices and leaders and to enroll in education or start a business. In this way, denying a woman decision power over assets and land and thus depriving her of the option of making use of her resources, a woman is said to be a victim of economic violence.
Also, being a victim of GBV is a great mental and physical obstacle towards initiating a resource generating activity and thus empower oneself financially. On this ground, there is a clear connection between economic marginalisation and sexual, physical and mental abuse. TAMWA's Ms Mzuri Issa says frustrating incidents of all forms of GBV have been witnessed in the cosmopolitan Islamic dominated islands of Zanzibar and that the role of media remain important to achieve the expected outcome.
Mzuri mentioned that the expected results in the GEWE project include increased awareness, reporting and collective activism on GBV issues targeting perpetrators, survivors and communities. "Decreased cases of GBV in selected areas; strengthened capacity of institutions dealing with GBV related issues and improved legal and policy frameworks responding to GBV at all levels are other expected outcome," he said.
Introducing GEWE to reporters in Zanzibar, activists from TAMWA said the project would involve media coverage on GBV related issues, producing and disseminate training manual for training journalists on how to report on GBV issues effectively. Conduct evidence based media advocacy through journalistic survey, newsworthy press statements, press conference, regular media visits and coverage in targeted areas, TV spot and programmes, Radio spot and programmes, features and news stories, newsletter and posters with strategic GBV messages.
Enhanced collective activism on GBV issues and the establishment of One-Stop Centres/knowledge centres to facilitate legal remedy procedures, media use, popular GBV materials, knowledge and sharing and community activism, are other areas of improvement in the programme. The project also includes strengthening grass roots/district GBV mechanism, and network, CBOs, community members for Zanzibar, facilitate community social gender analysis, animation, community and national debates, use of online social media and creative arts, gender and advocacy training.
Strengthened capacity of institutions dealing with GBV issues such as to conduct GBV trainings and discussions to police officers, DPP, DCI, AG chambers, medical officers, agistrates and community leaders. Establish and dvocate/ institutionalize mechanisms/ procedures for handling GBV cases and mapping exercise to establish the current GBV trend including capacity assessment of the GBV institutions, media coverage, policies and legal framework, legal access and gender mainstreaming.
The target has also improved legal and policy frameworks responding to GBV at all levels and to conduct a review and an analysis on relevant laws and policies on GBV related issues in Zanzibar, conduct advocacy meetings with various stakeholders on laws related to GBV and to provide legal aid, legal outreach and counselling services. Different studies, including a recent study conducted by TAMWA - Zanzibar in May, this year, shows that gender-based violence is still escalating with pronounced cases occurring in rural areas.
In most cases, it is the women (wives and female young ladies) who fall victim to unfounded fury of men, who happen to be relatives or close friends of the victims. Women's should be made to speak and their voices heard for protection against violence. "Most women are shy and cultural perception that women should not raise their voices, prevent them from speaking out their grievances in marriages," said Ms Amina Hassan, a house wife. Ms Hassan says many women need to be encouraged to reveal agonies in marriage lives.