Still more needs to be done on violence against women

It is that time of the year once again - no, not Christmas time! It is that time when we commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence from 25 November to 10 December.

There has been so much talk around peace of late, especially in Zimbabwe and this is a good step considering this year's 16 Days theme, "From peace in the home to peace in the world: Let's challenge militarism and end violence against women. € With such in mind, it is useful that each person plays their role in ensuring sustainable peace from their personal space to the public space and of course, the duty bearers have the greater responsibility to ensure protection and security for women. Five key aspects fall into place with this year's theme and thus activism will be centered on these.


Perhaps before delving into the key areas of activism, it is prudent to define militarism which in this case is defined by the Center for Women's Global Leadership as an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression or military inventions for settling disputes and enforcing political and economic interests. Moreover, militarism also privileges certain violent forms of masculinity, which often has grave consequences for the true safety and security of women. In this light, this year's 16 Days commemorations firstly zero in on bringing women, peace and human rights movements to challenge militarism in all its forms. This can be done by utilizing international tools such as the Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW, Security Council's Resolutions 1325, 1820, 188, 1889, and 1960 on Women, Peace, Security and more to hold our governments accountable for protecting and respecting the rights of women

Secondly, it is imperative that the proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence be challenged during this year's activism. The reality of women dying a violent death in a home where there is a fire arm is more real than many of us ever anticipate. It is therefore important that we begin to acknowledge these lived realities for some women speak out on the sale, trade, proliferation and misuse of such small arms. Thirdly, sexual violence in and after conflict is an issue that is at the centre of the 16 Days in 2011. Rape is often used as a weapon to humiliate and drive fear into women's lives as wars are fought on their bodies. Although some action has been taken towards dealing with this issue, a lot still needs to be done to ensure the security and safety of women in conflict times.

In Zimbabwe today as is the case in many areas of the world, political violence is an issue that leaves women at the very heart of conflict aftermath. Reflecting on this, it could be useful to begin some sort of activism in line with the fourth issue of this year's theme that deals with political violence against women including pre, during and post election violence. As Zimbabwe is undergoing a constitutional reform process and is anticipating an election, violence, as has been the case in the last couple of weeks, is on the increase. A close look at trends will inform us that this is likely to increase as the referendum and election draw close with the various parties entering a full swing campaign mode. In this light, let us come together and begin to shun political violence as it has a negative impact on women's lives and discourages them from actively participating on the democratization agenda.

Lastly, this year's 16 Days commemorations are centered around sexual and gender based violence committed by state agents, particularly the police and military. As we begin to finalize our plans for 16 Days of Activism against gender based violence, let us not forget how civil society in Zimbabwe has been calling for security sector reforms. This will enable the creation of a safe and secure environment for women to participate and also live their lives without fear; harassment and intimidation from the various security sectors.

It is everyone's responsibility to ensure that the environment in the home, community, nation and worlds at large is such that women can freely live their lives and explore their being. The above mentioned issues can be a rallying point for you wherever it is that you are, so that we can all come together and ensure that there is sustainable peace in the home and world by denouncing militarism and facilitating the creation of a safe and secure world where women are able to excel to their best ability. Zimbabwe needs this as is the same with the rest of the world so let us begin to make a difference today, right now and be a part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence 2011!

Grace Chirenje-Nachipo is an activist.

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