‘Zim lagging behind on gender policy implementation’

World Bank Country Manager Eneida Fernandes

This week the World Bank released the  Zimbabwe Gender Assessment and Zimbabwe Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Assessment reports. The key findings are that despite Zimbabwe having put in place gender policies,  implementation is still lagging behind, while gender disparities are significant. According to the report, the prevalence of gender-based violence is high, and incidences of several forms of GBV remain unchanged. In 2019, around 42,5% of women experienced physical and/or sexual violence, similar to the 43,4% rate reported in 2011 and higher than the global and regional averages of 27% and 33%, respectively. The report also noted that social or cultural norms like ‘paying lobola’, child and forced marriages, have been major drivers of GBV. Our senior reporter  Melody Chikono (MC) spoke to World Bank Country Manager Eneida Fernandes (EF, pictured), who said addressing gender disparities required both individual and community efforts.Below are excerpts of the interview:

MC: You note that the implementation of GBV programming has been affected by existing funding gaps. How can Zimbabwe progress towards GBV funding without relying entirely on partners?

EF: A multi-faceted approach would assist in this regard, and that may include intentional government budget allocation for prevention and response programmes. In addition, economic empowerment programmes empower women and vulnerable populations economically, thereby indirectly reducing cases of GBV.

MC: Although Zimbabwe has made significant progress according to your reports, you indicate that challenges remain in the implementation of GBV policies. What does it take for a nation, like Zimbabwe, to earnestly ensure implementation of GBV policies?

EF: Establishing accountable institutions that can assist in policy implementation and continuous capacity building for law enforcement and service providers, community engagement, and continuous monitoring and evaluation of GBV interventions will be critical.

MC: Should Zimbabwe succeed on this front, how do you see GBV statistics in the next decade?

EF: We should see reduced incidences of GBV cases, increased reporting, and improved support for survivors.

MC: You found that persisting gender disparities have seen an increase in both communicable and non-communicable diseases amongst women. Would it require individual or community efforts to curb this?

EF: Addressing gender disparities requires both individual and community efforts. It involves promoting gender equality, improving women's access to healthcare, and engaging the community in education to change harmful gender norms.

MC: You also note violence against children as a significant issue. Can you explain this in relation to existing children's rights and protection policies in Zimbabwe?

EF: Violence against children in Zimbabwe must be examined in the context of the country's children's rights and protection policies. It is essential to assess the effectiveness of these policies in preventing violence and protecting children's rights, as well as identifying and addressing any gaps in the legal and institutional frameworks.

MC: You mention that only 28% of survivors of GBV sought help from the police, which illustrates a lack of confidence in the authorities, driven, in part, by perceived corruption and absence of victim friendly services. What mechanisms should be put in place to entice victims to report?

EF: Strengthening the criminal justice system, ensuring the availability of victim-friendly services, providing law enforcement with sensitive handling training on GBV cases, and establishing trust in the authorities through community outreach and transparency are necessary.

MC: Are we able to quantify the impact of GBV on the economy of Zimbabwe?

EF: We anticipate doing this as the next step in implementing the reports' recommendations.

MC: How best can Zimbabwe eradicate GBV through education in schools?

EF: The key is a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum delivered while creating safe spaces for students and involving parents and communities.

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