Women in Chitungwiza continue to raise concerns over rising cases of Sexual Gender-Based Violence as well as verbal abuse at water collecting points.
Chitungwiza has been facing water challenges for several years and despite organizations, communities, and government’s efforts to erect boreholes and more sources of water, the shortages seem far from over, which has necessitated sexual predators to take advantage of women’s vulnerabilities and prey on them.
At a meeting on water challenges organized by Shamwari Yemwanasikana (SYS) and other partners which include the Deaf Zimbabwe Trust and Community Water Alliance, women noted that the incessant water challenges are posing a huge threat, especially to young girls who are, in most cases, defenseless, against older and stronger men who abuse them during water collections.
“Young women are at great risk at these water points. She will get to the borehole and there will be a long queue then those men who guard the boreholes will start making love advancements towards the young girl and in desperation, she will end up accepting.
“In the end, she will be abused sexually and in worse cases, she will fall pregnant or contract Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and this affects her life forever,” said Agnes Manjonjo (not real name).
Due to climate change, Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to increased water insecurity.
Clean and accessible water supplies will continue to be a challenge for both rural and urban areas.
As weather patterns change across the region, higher temperatures and irregular rainfall mean that communities like Chitungwiza may not be able to rely on their typical water sources, which further worsens girls’ and women’s livelihoods.
Lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) disproportionately impact women and girls.
Post-pubescent girls and women have the additional challenge of managing menstruation, which increases their daily water and sanitation requirements for a number of days each month.
This may increase the vulnerability to the violence of those girls and women who live in households that lack safe access to adequate water and sanitation facilities.
In Zimbabwe and other countries, girls know there is a risk of rape every time they leave their homes to fetch water.
But neglecting their water collecting duties, or waiting until a safer hour of the day, are not choices these women are allowed to make.
Another community member, Elizabeth Chisamba said it is difficult, for women with ailments to access water as they are often frowned at when they want to access water.
“These days there are a lot of women who are sick from one illness to another and when she comes to the borehole, she is not given a priority as should be the norm.
“Too often, those women with special needs end up getting even sick because of the treatment they get at water points. Something urgent needs to be done to ensure that those women are well taken care of,” she noted.
Another notable abuse which was raised is by politically connected figured who bulldoze their way at these points and deprive others of the precious liquid.
“There are other people who come and intimidate us because of their political connections. Whereas there should be limits on how much water a household should get, there are some who just get as much as they can and they threaten us if we try to speak out.
“To make matters worse, these people do not give priority to young girls and people with disabilities to also get access to water, this then causes a lot of violence at the boreholes, which is something we are hoping will improve,” a resident in Chitungwiza added.
In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours collecting water each year. That is precious time that could be spent going to school, generating income, or working to develop their communities.
Instead, girls and women spend their time traveling great distances carrying the heavy burden of water, while often risking their safety.
Through the engagement of women, men, boys and girls, SYS together with its partners is looking at assisting in the creation of a community movement that drives violence against women and girls prevention initiatives , thus empowering and amplifying the voices of girls and women in Chitungwiza to address all forms of sexual gender based violence at public water collection points as well as mainstreaming disability in all its interventions.
To ensure that the attitude and behaviors contributing to violence against women and girls, are widely recognized and considered unacceptable by men and women in Chitungwiza.
Hence the project is engaging women, men boys and girls in a bid to ensure that there is zero tolerance to violence against women and girls at public water points as well as ensure that there is gender sensitivity at those points.
As a result, the consortium is aiming at ensuring that through engagement of all people at varous levels , we can achieve zero violence in tryin to access the precious liquid.
At the local level, gender-sensitive approaches by the organization and partners, are helping to improve the suitability, sustainability, and reach of water and sanitation services by both focusing on involving women in the facilities’ design, implementation, and management.
Through the Borehole Diaries meetings in and around Chitungwiza, SYS has managed to embed gender equity into policy at all levels which will be crucial to achieving water and sanitation for all, and in turn will help advance many other parts of the SDG agenda, particularly education and work.
The Borehole Diaries meetings have also been capacitating women and girls with knowledge on how to collect narratives and experiences of violence at public water collection points.
The stories are meant to inform advocacy issues as well as pave way for interventions that will bring about change.
The sixth goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stipulates that water is of vital importance and a basic right.
Globally over 2.5 billion people lack access to improved water and sanitation, despite the equal right of all too safe access to improved water and sanitation.