Zanzibar — Good news has been emerging from some parts of Zanzibar that incidents of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), slowly declining.
The positive news is attributed to vigorous sensitization campaigns conducted by gender activists at village level in collaboration with community leaders and effective use of Information and Knowledge Centers (IKCs).
Activists from villages of Nganani, Kajengwa, Kijini, Tasani, Kiungoni, Mzuri in South Unguja and Bumbwisudi, Dole, Kianga, Kwerekwe, Pangawe in West district gathered recently here to discuss the impact of the campaign.
Ms Bimkubwa Pandu, Ms Zawadi Hamdu Vuai, Ms Fatma Juma Jabu, Mr Kassim Abbasi, and Mr Abdalla Saidi Washoto were among the activists who gave the positive news in the war against GBV for the last three years.
Without giving any official statistics, the activists said they were happy that cases of abuse have been declining and that concerted efforts would help reduce violence against women.
"When we started the awareness campaign in 2012, we recorded three to ten cases of abuse in one to two weeks, mainly rape, defilement, and battering.
But now we may have one or two cases monthly," said Ms Pandu. Mr Washoto also said that in his village of Bumbwisudi, which had common cases of abuse of children and women due to moral decay and use of alcohol, "there has been a drop in reported cases."
The activists also attributed the decrease of GBV incidents to foreign support through the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (GEWE), Phase II project, which focused on raising awareness among people to have zero tolerance on violence in the community.
"The GEWE project has helped to reduce gender violence because of the increased awareness among women and men," Mr Washoto said, adding that the extension of the project for one-year may further cut down the social menace.
Mr Washoto and his colleagues in the anti-GBV campaign have also recognized focal persons in the selected areas of the project; South District, West District on Unguja Island and Wete District in Pemba Island.
The activists talked on the importance of coordination among them to increase awareness in the society in handling cases of GBV, which has several consequences on women and children's health and psychology.
The GEWE project has been implemented by four civil organizations-- Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TWLA) and Tanzania Gender Network (TGNP), in the Mainland and Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA) and Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA).
Ms Grace Geoffrey and Ms Asha Abdi from TAMWA-Zanzibar said despite the success in combating GVB, many cases of violence against children and women remain hidden, necessitating continued awareness.
"This fear is linked to the family protecting perpetrators and stigma attached to reporting violence, especially in cases of rape," Ms Geoffrey said.
Ms Abdi commended the activists for continued collaboration, saying that if the spirit continues, "It is possible for Zanzibar to end GBV in the near future.
The extended time of one-year for the GEWE project should be used seriously." While the World Bank estimates that rape and domestic violence account for five percent of the healthy years of life lost to women aged 15 to 44 in developing countries, the World Health Organization (WHO), says violence has seriously affected all aspects of women's health.
A TAMWA officials says despite challenges on GBV, Zanzibar has been making strides towards prevention and that the government in 2014 undertook a two-year campaign in creating nationwide awareness.
The campaign led by President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein has resulted to increased awareness and increased activism of civil society organizations and community media campaigns.
"We now encourage moving from awareness to action. Activists, the police and the judiciary should take great responsibility in ensuring that cases are reported, investigated and offenders punished," said Ms Abdi.
She said that rape, battery, abandonment of women and children, early marriages and school pregnancies still need concerted efforts and that any laxity may lead to increased abuses.
Ms Abdi said that the two years of the GEWE II programme which started in 2012, created a strong base in the war against GBV and in changing society's attitude towards such incidents.
The activists mentioned some of the challenges as culture and traditions, male chauvinism, the patriarchy system, the conflicting laws and lack of awareness of the laws as playing part in the perpetuation of GBV.
Announcing the extension of GEWE II project beginning January 2016, Ms Abdi said that TAMWA may need to make research and provide statistics on the impact.
The objective set in 2012 remain the same Increased awareness, reporting and collective activism on GBV issues targeting perpetrators, survivors and communities and decreased cases of GBV in selected areas.
Other goals are strengthened capacity of institutions dealing with GBV related issues and improved legal and policy frameworks responding to GBV at all levels.
Tanzania's commitment to gender equality is clearly indicated in its Constitution and in the signing and/or ratification of major international instruments that promote gender equality and human rights.
At regional level, Tanzania has signed and/or ratified number of instruments including the African Union Charter and its Protocol on Human and Peoples' Rights and the Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Gender Declaration (1997) and its Addendum on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Children of Southern Africa (1998); and SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (2008).
The Ministry of Empowerment, Social Welfare, Women, and Children, through its Deputy Principal Secretary Mr Msham Abdalla Khamis says incidents of GBV are still under reported making it difficult to ascertain the exact magnitude of the problem.
He said that the problem of GBV is a serious and difficult one to handle due to weakness in judiciary system and that victims/survivors fail to report due to poverty and unable to follow the costly and bureaucratic procedures of seeking justice.
The stigmatization attached to the survivor makes them withdraw from reporting.