A community garden established by women working with Heal Zimbabwe in Gutu has made strides addressing rampant cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV).This came out during a Women Safe Space for Reconciliation dialogue meeting conducted by Heal Zimbabwe on 8 November 2021.
Participants highlighted that they recorded a spike in cases of GBV during the lockdown period which was exacerbated by loss of livelihoods for most people. During the lockdown period the garden had become a referral centre and safe space for women to share and proffer solutions collectively to problems identified.
“We have managed to deal effectively with GBV in this community. We have offered counseling to survivors of GBV and have facilitated for survivors to report their cases to the Victims Friendly Unit, Musasa Project and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC)”, said one participant.
Participants also added that besides the garden being a safe space, it also provides local women with a sustainable alternative income to male controlled household income and a physical safe space for women and girls to discuss issues affecting themselves free from interference by men. The garden was created as a product of a community dialogue to address the causes of a spike in sexual and gender based violence in Gutu. The garden currently benefits 50 women drawn from different socio-economic and political backgrounds
Other issues that came out during the dialogue include issues of intraparty violence within ZANU PF and partisan distribution of farming inputs. Participants noted that voter mobilisation exercises by most political parties were creating serious political labeling and tensions in communities. This was mostly demonstrated by politicization of farming inputs from the government under the Pfumvudza inputs scheme. As part of resolutions, the dialogue meeting resolved that there was need for the Women Safe Space to conduct conflict mediation on conflicts identified in collaboration with other local stakeholders. It was also resolved that as part of ensuring effective participation of women in electoral processes, the Safe Space was going to mobilize other women to register to vote ahead of the 2023 elections.
The meetings by Heal Zimbabwe are part of efforts to empower local communities to help safeguard against human rights abuse and also help build peaceful communities. Heal Zimbabwe utilizes various strategies to address conflicts in local communities. One of these ways is the use of community dialogues, an initiative for communities to discuss and collectively identify ways through which they can proffer solutions to problems in their communities. Such platforms also facilitate local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities as well as create socially cohesive communities.