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Heroine Nyaradzai Gumbodzvanda: Her speech at Amnesty International on Gender-based violence was heroic!

03 Dec 2020 at 22:12hrs | Views
Nomazulu Thata
"Our language use perpetuate violence: we must refrain from language use that does not provide power to communities" said Madam Gumbodzvanda.

Amai Gumbodzvanda made one of the most powerful speeches at the conference organized by Amnesty International on the 2nd of December. She touched diverse forms of violence but dwelt mostly about child marriages that have exacerbated amid Sars-Covid 19 pandemic. I listened to this powerful speech with awe and wonder: Zimbabwe is indeed endowered with great potential: Nyaradzai is Zimbabwe's hero of our time and these are the great women we should celebrate. She calls all stakeholders to recognise the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence in Zimbabwe and be part of the fight for social evils; gender-based violence is one of the worst forms of human rights abuses prevalent in Zimbabwe.

"We have baskets and baskets of good conventions, curiously, does not change lives to the very niche they are intended." The period between 25th of November to the 10th of December is recognizing Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women: CEDAW. We have International Convention for Democracy and Gender Equality: We have Declaration of the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993), we have the Convention of Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (2014) also known as Istanbul Conventions. These are the several conventions that fill in baskets and baskets to protect women and girls: curiously, we are today confronted with daily violence on women and our girls are sent for marriages at a very tender age; it appears as if nothing has fundamentally changed.

"If our personal behaviour does not align with what we propagate as activists, we cannot successfully fight gender-based-violence." The double bind is fear to confront painful issues and the culture of silence that is embedded in our societies, we are reticent to takes action to combat gender-based violence. We must learn to love and respect women and girls: we must learn to protect them from unnecessary pain of sexual abuse and physical violence. Nyaradzai talks about shift value at personal level; home budgets should be caring ones by providing what our children love most as signs of love and appreciation of girl- children. By so doing they will not seek "sweets and buiscuts" outside the home, from strangers.  

Heroine Nyaradzai structures her calls for action systematically. Firstly we must move our activism must go beyond awareness to responsible action. Often our societies are aware of abuse on girl-children but fall short of acting, speak out without fear that a member of the family is sexually abusing minors in the home. The social fathers in our societies: uncles, grandfathers, brothers, and whoever is given the responsibility over girl-children abuse their powers; do what pleases them at the expense of growing up girl-children. Hence, we see girl children sent to early marriages because the girl minor became pregnant.

Heroine Nyaradzai talks about the challenges of parenting at home and in school institutions. Behaviour management is challenging teachers in schools, who are supposed to be loco parentis. Teachers will always argue that the children lack good practice of behaviour in homes, shift blame of unruly children is passed on to scanty parental care in homes. On the other hand, the parents put blame on the schools that fail critical responsibilities in facilitating education. This shift blame either way does not help the pupils, because at the end of the day, no one claims responsibility over parenting.

Social services are a right to all citizens. The current situation regarding schools both in rural and urban areas is devastating to say the least. The broken-down health centres whose aim initially is to serve the wellbeing of the citizens, lack basic infrastructure and drugs to treat the people who come with all kinds of needs: wounds from beaten up women by husbands or spouse; pregnancy related diseases. Nyaradzai argues that schools and hospitals must be functional to cater for health needs meted in gender-based violence in societies.

The resources of the nation belong to the people. Africa is not poor; Zimbabwe is not poor. In Mashonaland Central where Nyaradzai comes from, there is gold and tobacco farming as the main source of income. However, she laments that Mashonaland Central has the highest prevalence gender-based-violence, has the highest number of child marriages despite the fact that it has the capacity to remove poverty, a scourge that induces and ignites gender-based- violence in homes. Poverty puts the political economy a fertile breeding ground to gender-based-violence in the nation.    

Therefore to fight gender-based violence effectively, resources must be channelled to poorer societies to improve public services both in rural and urban areas. She says violence in societies are macro induced and not micro. Fighting corruption and plugging leakages of revenue flight by corrupt people at all sections of the party and government must be done urgently: budgeting responsibly to prioritize public service can be a solution to eliminating gender-based violence in our societies.

The highlight of Heroine Nyaradzai Gumbodzvanda is to sensitize our language use that could inadvertently legalize, normalize, sanitize gender-based-violence. The language use in our societies is not measured or checked, but casually used. The rape of a minor must be loudly spoken that the girl was raped and no other explanation such as defilement etc. To give consent to marriage of a minor because she has become pregnant is abhorrent, a girl of 11 years cannot be sent for marriage. That girl, we must all remember is protected by the nation's constitution, by the AU and UN legal instruments, conventions that protect the child from early marriage.

In a nutshell these are poignant points that she highlighted in that famous speech. My take in that watershed is her argument about the language use in our societies. Yes, the language we use can be promiscuous. Relationships in the clans are expressed in a polygamous attribute, supposedly well-meaning, and promiscuous. However, we do not realize the serious repercussions of our language use. There is an obvious sexual connection and connotations expressed between-the-lines to under-aged girls who are coupled with older men as potential husbands leading to men raping and sexually assaulting them. Here, it is the language that acknowledges and accepts this verbal use casually tilted to pleasing men in the first place.

Young girls are not supposed to report to their mothers, aunties, and guardians if a brother-in-law made sexual advances to her. To report him for fondling breasts of a minor means that the girl is immature and does not know the family set-up yet that her body parts are the property of her brother-in-law or uncle in law - it goes on. The brother-in-law will tell the under-aged girl that he has the right to her body, and she should never refuse. This is conditioning the girl to sexual abuse in the future.

An uncle who pressurizes a bride-to-be to determine her virginity is gender-based violence. These medieval practices still exist in our societies today. We must have the courage to condemn it openly so that such practices are not perpetuated in the coming generations. How many girls live in silence, are not able to tell it that their human rights were violated. Virginity testing is gender-based violence against women and to undermine her to accepting virginity testing is criminal. This virginity testing comes under the category language that Heroine Nyaradzai is alluding to. In the marriage preparations a lot is spoken about whether the bride-to-be is a virgin or not. To confirm this, uncles', and fathers-in-law or some devious male members of the clan chip in as virginity testers.

Madam Nyaradzai Gumbodzvanda, your contribution to CEDAW and recognizing the 16 days of activism I wish to express my sincere gratitude for this powerful and moving speech. I am enormously proud of words of encouragement and wisdom you put in the conference. You are inviting women and men alike to be bold and courageous to bring real change in communities and speak loudly, never push evil traditional practices under the carpet; where there is need to expose rape on under-aged-girls and domestic violence at homes, we shall speak loud and report it to the law-enforcing agencies. Femicide is prevalent nationally, not only in Mashonaland Central dear Nyaradzai. Children have been beaten to death as honour and ritual killings. Young girls who resisted early marriages have been body shamed. Indeed your speech will be appreciated by many who want to eradicate gender-based violence in our societies. Ndatenda; Ngiyabonga, Kudos to you.
Source - Nomazulu Thata
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