Zanzibar — IT is a fact that war against gender based violence cannot be won without direct involvement of the community.
This relatively new perception, amid escalating incidents of child and women abuse, has prompted gender activists to think of deploying mentors in all districts of Zanzibar.
The Gender Based Violence (GBV) mentors in all districts will be responsible for working directly with the community in exposing GBV incidents to relevant authorities including the media.
The programme of deploying mentors in all districts is being supported by UN under its Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment (GEWE) II project.
The Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) and the Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA) are implementing the crucial programme anticipated to reduce GBV in the islands.
Ms Asha Abdi Makame, coordinator, GEWE project in Zanzibar says that the plan is to have 15 GBV mentors in each of the selected districts of West and South in Zanzibar and Wete in Pemba. "The selected mentors will be actors in the field," she said when introducing the programme to activists.
She said under the GEWE project, GBV Community Steering Committees (CSC) will also be established in the selected districts and that their 25 members will be responsible to provide surveillance and monitoring of the project." GBV mentors and members of the committees will work closely with paralegals already operating in all constituencies in Zanzibar.
The selected paralegals will work under the supervision of ZAFELA to implement the two-year GEWE project. According to Ms Makame, the GEWE project starts with training of mentors who have been carefully selected with great hope of bringing about changes in the communities, currently engulfed by disturbing reports about gender violence.
The mentors will be given basic knowledge on a number of aspects including the meaning of GBV and will also be enlightened on importance and the role of the media, news values, sources, the right to information, impacts of GBV on social /economy stability, division of labour, gender relations and inequality, gaps, discrimination, oppression, gender needs, analysis and bias in gender budgeting.
Ms Mwanakhamis Mohammed, GEWE project's monitoring and evaluation officer said new approach are needed in addressing GBV in Zanzibar. "Child pregnancy, forced marriage, gender leadership discrimination, use of harsh language and violence in families, are just a few examples of ongoing GBV incidents in the islands.
She mentioned other acts of abuse in Zanzibar as wife/children abandonment, women battering, rape and sodomy, "with this initiative of involving members of the community, we hope to minimize GBV in the islands, particularly the selected areas for the GEWE project."
Ms Mzuri Issa, head of the GEWE project in Zanzibar said that GBV tarnishes the image of Zanzibar and its people can be eliminated easily if law enforcers, the government and the community work together for that purpose. She also emphasizes on increased awareness in the community through media, NGOs, CBOs, religious leaders and teachers in all schools.
The UN says that GEWE is one of the many practical steps that can be taken to reduce inequalities based on gender, which hinder the potential to reduce poverty and achieve high levels of well being in societies around the world.
The activities include strengthening economic opportunities, increasing access to wealth, investing in infrastructure, guaranteeing rights, eliminating inequality in employment, increasing women's representation in government and reducing violence against girls and women.
GEWE project is also intended to campaign for the improvement of women's legal rights; increase women's access to justice and reducing the number of women who become victims of trafficking and campaign for women's leadership, capacity- building and reducing violence against women.