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GBV – What is the missing link?

By Patience Shawarira

Until we hold, “crucial conversations” around gender based violence we are not going anywhere said Pastor Evan Mawarire. He was speaking at a discussion organised by the Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) and 263Chat held on 9th December 2014.

Virginia Muwanigwa, the Director for Humanitarian Information and Facilitation Centre said when you look at gender relations and the way we live as men and women, you look at issues like who gets to go school, who decides what are the priorities at household level, it just gives one a picture that something is not quite right in our society.

Growing up as a women, one is taught that they have to give way to men but when one starts thinking of what effect that stereotype has on gender based violence, and we look at issues of violence against women as compared to violence against men. When we look at issues of violence against women and the outrage we see when a man is beaten up versus the outrage we see when a woman is being beaten up, it shows that as society they are double standards. They are certain things we think they are ok because they have been done to a women, or we think they are not ok because they have been done to a men.

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“The day we start saying it doesn’t matter whether you are a men or women, we both have equal opportunities, and we both can dream and realize those dreams we will have a better world”, said Muwanigwa.

Nakai Nengomasha, Programs Officer at Padare said we should start to understand issues around gender systems. What are the priorities when we look at gender systems versus patriarchy, and what it has contributed to society? Nengomasha said people end up behaving the way they do because of patriarchy and the way it has evolved and internalised by society. This is how the gender system has developed in children.

He said it is high time we move away from saying what is the difference between men and women and say we are all human beings and we begin to challenge patriarchy and the gender system.

Pastor Mawarire said religion teaches women that they were created from the rib of a man, and that is the origin of wives being beaten up by their husbands.  The scripture on submission of women to their husbands also promotes violence of men against women, as men are socialised to believe that women exist because of them.

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He said churches should start interrogating these issues and that there is a call on those who teach religion to speak to those issues and link them to scripture.

Pastor Mawarire spoke about were religion stand in relation to gender based violence. He said religion plays a subtle role in promoting gender based violence, as women are taught to be submissive to their husbands, were as in actual fact God created men and women to be equal in his eyes.

Pastor Mawarire mentioned that some Christians are not open to divorce as they believe that this is not God’s plan for married couples, and they have been taught that God hates divorce. However many forget that abuse breaks God’s heart more than divorce.

Pastor Mawarire said when one is abused, “you cannot pray it away, and people have to change their mindset when it comes to religion and gender based violence. He said churches can help in reducing gender based violence.


Nengomasha said there is a lot of relearning that we have to do especially when it comes to raising children.  He said he gets disturbed when he sees the results of  patriarchy making some women gatekeepers of patriarchy, and you hear a women saying to a small boy, ‘Ndimi baba wemusha’.

Children at a very tender age internalise socialisation and such messages can result in the boy child thinking that they are the head of the house and that their sisters even those older than them should look up to them.

Because of that set up, society expects women to behave in a certain way,  that women should be listening quietly and internalise what the men is telling them, and not question issues in their society. He said it is high time we begin to question real issues around gender based violence.

Nengomasha also mentioned that primary schools are also institutions were socialisation takes place. He said at the school he learnt girls and boys were taught that men own big things likes houses, herds of cattle etc., whereas women own small things like needles, hard clay pots etc.

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He said men who grow up in that set up are the ones who struggle to value women and often think that women are inferior to men. It is those men who think that the women cannot own assets. He said there is a need for men to relearn their way of thinking around gender roles.

Nigel Mugamu posed a question: ‘is it possible for the older generation like my father to relearn new ways of thinking’?

Muwanigwa responded to the question saying relearning is possible for his father because he is more likely to listen to what his son is saying. She said culture is very powerful but the moment you start to question certain things and the more you start to question those things, they will come around.

Muwanigwa said the gender debate is misconstrued at times because men view the issue as something that women like to cry about and not a serious issue that needs to be addressed. She said the gender discourse is about equal opportunities and not an attack on the men.

She said when we talk about gender we are talking about the social and not the biological setup of men and women.  A child is prepared to be a boy or girl before they are even born for instance the girl is prepared for marriage, and we start teaching that child as soon as they are born how they should behave, and the men is taught to be independent and not to be accountable to anyone

She said men are propped up when it comes to leadership positions whereas women are not given equal opportunities as their male counterparts when it comes to leadership positions. As a society we need to find a situation where we say men and women should have equal opportunities to learn.

Nengomasha said there is a need to relook at the process of socialisation. He also emphasised the need for the media to carry positive messages for instance in the music that they play. He said music videos portray women as sex objects, for instance music videos were the men is surrounded by half naked women, portray women negatively  and children watching such videos internalise those messages.

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Nigel Mugamu is extremely passionate about the use of tech in Africa, travel, wine, Man Utd, current affairs and Zimbabwe.

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