SHORTLY after swearing-in his new cabinet ministers, President Hussein Ali Hassan Mwinyi reiterated his government's resolve to end Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Zanzibar dominated by sexual abuse of children and women.
"Be creative, and never drag your feet in taking action for the benefit of the people. Look at the laws and policies. Are they the problem in efforts to make Zanzibar free of GBV?" said Dr Mwinyi.
He informed the gathering at the state House that during his election campaign, complaints against GBV were one of the main concerns raised by the people and vowed to 'leave no stone unturned' in search for solution to end abuse of children and women in the country.
Prior to the fresh initiatives by the new government under President Hussein, the past regime in collaborations with activists and development partners had laid down several strategies that need to be implemented at all levels, with everyone here, particularly parents, teachers, leaders (include clerics), law enforcers and judiciary staff take an active role.
In an attempt to end violence against women and children, the past government under President Ali Mohamed Shein developed and operationalized the Zanzibar's National Action Plan to End Violence against Women and Children (VAWC) 2017-2022.
The Action Plan which may be inherited by the 8th phase of government, were: prevention, enabling environment and strengthening supportive services, and coordination structure to handle VAWC incidences, which has been strengthened from national to grassroots level.
The action plan also includes the strengthening of awareness to the public that led to the reduction of VAWC incidences by 55 per cent from 2,447 cases in 2016/2017 to 1,097 cases in 2017/2018. Also various laws related to ending violence against women and children have been repealed.
Repealed laws include: The Evidence Act 6/2016 which among other things allows child evidence as well as admissibly electronic evidence; The Kadhi Court Act 9/2017 contain provision on the division matrimonial assets and allow advocates to appear before the court; The Criminal Procedure Act 7/2018 section 151 (1) which had provisions that did not allow for provision of bail for any person accused of GBV related cases as well as increase of sentences that the courts may pass and increase imprisonment time, at Regional Courts from 7 to 14 years and for High Court from 30 years to life imprisonment; The Penal Act 6/2018 increased punishment to moral related offences such as rape, sodomy and indecent assault.
The new law, Legal Aid Act 13/2018 was enacted which contain specifically provision of legal aid to indigent/ rural people who cannot afford to pay. Also, Children Act No 6 of 2011 was enacted with a view to safeguard children rights and wellbeing in Zanzibar, are other reforms of the laws.
Establishment of 'One Stop Centres' in Micheweni, Chake Chake, Wete, Mkoani, Mnazi Mmoja, Makunduchi, and Kivunge to provide comprehensive services to victims of sexual violence including health, psychosocial support and legal aid and establishment of four Children Courts in Unguja and Pemba are other recorded successes in trying to make Zanzibar a better place for children and women.
But despite the achievements, the challenge is still enormous. Reports of abuse to young girls and boys continue to come up. President Dr Hussein has just joined the people and activists to push for more actions to end the menace.
The new State Minister- Constitution, Legal Affairs, Public Service and Good Governance Mr Haroun Ali Suleiman said; "We have to assess our measures so that we find out gaps that hinder efforts to end GBV, which remains a challenge in the society."
There is identical argument among some researchers, and International organizations such as centres for diseases control (CDC) and World Health Organization that GBV, particularly sexual violence is a serious problem that can have lasting, harmful effects on victims and their family, friends, and communities.
Members of the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA)-Zanzibar have been one of the leading activists group to campaign against abuse children and women, and its director Dr Mzuri Issa says prevention of sexual violence should be a priority.
She says that ending abuse particularly sexual violence requires addressing various factors at all levels along with commitment of the society, law enforcers, local leaders, religious clerics, and judiciary staffs and also to promote social norms that discourage abuse.
Release of monthly statistics of GBV by the Chief Government Statistician (OGCS) in Zanzibar is the latest development welcomed by activists and partners saying it would help to minimize data discrepancy, and further to improve gander statistics. The OGCS in collaborations with development partners launched the action plan for improving gender statistics.
"Need to improve gender statistics comes from Zanzibar's strategy for growth and poverty reduction (ZSGRP) and forms a key commitment of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development to ensure that 'No One is left Behind," Ms Mayasa Mahfoudh Mwinyi- Director OGCs said, last week, at the short ceremony to launch the three-year plan beginning October 2020.
She informed stakeholders at the ceremony here that in order to meet this commitment of 'living No one behind' data used to measure progress must be disaggregated, not only by sex but also by age, location education, employment, disability status, and inclusive of vulnerable groups.
At the meeting which was among activities to mark the 'African Statistics Day on the 18th of November, she said her office had taken different measures and affirmative actions to mainstream gender statistics in the development process.
She said that due to inadequate capacity of sectors in production and management of gender statistics, it has led to low performance, low quality statistics, difficulty in obtaining timely data, and insufficient statistics at disaggregated levels.
The action plan include conducting quarterly meeting with stakeholders, visit data producers regularly, review data collection tools, conduct trainings for data producers, prepare media programs, with focus of vital statistics (marriage and divorces), migration, and crime statistics.
In intensifying the war against violence, also inline with the global call for concerted efforts to end the social menace, Zanzibar government with support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched a five-year (2017-2022) 'National Plan of Action to end violence Against Women and Children in Zanzibar.'
Launch of the plan dubbed 'End Violence Against Women and Children in Zanzibar' was attended by students, teachers, religious leaders, women and children groups, academicians, and politicians who the welcomed the plan with hope that it will definitely make a difference in the Islands.
The national Plan sets out a national framework for everyone committed to preventing and responding to violence against women and children in Zanzibar- from government to communities, and from civil society to the private sector.
The National plan represents an overall vision and a specific set of agreed outcomes and key outputs, outlines the costed interventions planned to address violence against women and Children over the next five years from July 2017 to June 2022.
It seeks to establish, for the first time, a unified and comprehensive framework for addressing violence against both women and children by creating one dedicated plan to tackle violence against both women and children, the government of Zanzibar hopes to improve coordination and avoid inefficiencies associated with parallel programme structures and services.
Expected results or outcome of the 44bn/= five-year National plan of action include that, among other benefits, by 2022 an enhanced enabling environment in Zanzibar that promotes the social, political, legal, budgetary and institutional factors to ensure the protection and empowerment of women and children.
It is also expected that by 2022 enhanced access to prevention programmes and services that build the capacities, of men, women, children, families and communities in Zanzibar to address behaviours and practices harmful to women and children and to actively promote their empowerment and protection.