As Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, being held under the theme “Creating Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment in the Work Place,” 263Chat decided to look into what female cross borders go through in their day-to-day business.
Despite playing a critical role in the economic sustainability of the country, female cross borders still face sexual harassment at the hands of bus drivers, immigration officials and other service providers in their quest for survival.
One of the female cross borders, Mildred Chingosho, who spoke to 263Chat confirmed that society still treats them as loose women who can be mocked and sexually harassed, despite being a key economic driver at both household and national level.
“We are used to this life my brother, this is my 18th year in this trade, we come across a lot of difficulties but we are used to it, vulgar language is our day to day life even when we go to our workplaces either flea markets or boutiques.
“l have crossed a number of borders from Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa but the treatment is the same, we face a lot of sexual harassment, soliciting of bribes, humiliation,abuse by border officials, touts, bus drivers and conductors to mention a few.
“We cant even speak out because some of the people threaten us, but the best thing at the end of the day is to put food on the table and thats what we are concerned about,” she said.
Another female cross border who refused to be named said young girls were being abused as they try to smuggle goods from South Africa to Zimbabwe.
“Last week we had a case of a young girl from Gwanda who told us that she was raped by two guys who helped her smuggle her goods from Musina to Zimbabwean side.
“When they got to Zim side the guys told the girl that the money she paid wasn’t enough since they had paid a number of officials on their way.
“They had some arguments until she offered sexual intercourse with the driver because she had no option however she ended up sleeping with both of the guys in a Toyota Noah with a Zimbabwean number plate which she could not recall we told her to go and report to the police and l am not sure if she did because she seemed to be comfortable with it.”
Nothando Lunga, who regularly visit South Africa to trade her wares said the nature of their job is called for any behavior as long as it brings food on the table.
“We sleep with a number of men here, but we can’t call it rape since it will be consensual. That’s the nature of the job,” said Nothando Lunga.
Speaking during the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence launch,Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development minister Sithembiso Nyoni said they are committed to protecting Zimbabweans against all forms of gender-based violence.
“For too long, sexual harassment in the workplace has largely been tolerated, condoned and in most instances, normalized through societal and cultural beliefs that condone the culture of violence. These beliefs are then translated into organisational cultures that do not uphold mutual respect, thereby fueling sexual harassment in the workplace; adversely affecting productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of the victims of this malpractice,” said Nyoni.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe Cross-border Traders Association (ZCBTA) chairman Killer Zivhu could not comment on the harassment of female cross border traders saying their members do not engage in smuggling which he said is the prime reason why some end up being abused.
“The most people who complain about harassment are not our members so l cant comment on that one,they are smugglers who illegally cross with their goods without declaring them to ZIMRA.
“For us we tell our members that the best way is to pay their duty because we do our things proper and at the end of the day we cant allow people to smuggle things for a fact that they are citizens,that will be unfair,” said Zivhu.