From perpetrators to champions…Gender Based Violence-free ray of hope shines in Lupane ward’s future

Gibson Mhaka

FOR Andrew Sibanda (58) from Ndamuleni Village under Chief Mabhikwa in Gwamba Ward of Lupane District, Matabeleland North Province, patriarchal norms and cultural expectations that dictate that a woman should be submissive to her husband’s every whim seemed to have been deeply ingrained in him.

He had apparently normalised gender-based violence (GBV) as simply another facet of his everyday life.

With his eyes filled with shame, Sibanda’s voice also trembled as he recounted his past: “I used to beat my wife so badly, right in front of our children. It was a dark time”.

His abusive behaviour, however, changed after he participated in a series of gender-based violence awareness training sessions, which were being spearheaded by Brotha2Brotha Club, a mentoring initiative specifically targeting boys and young men in the district.

This initiative supported by the National Aids Council (Nac) is part of its intervention programmes meant to stop GBV and new HIV infections.

“I have five children and I’m so grateful for this programme that teaches us about GBV and how to prevent new HIV infections.

I used to be one of the perpetrators myself, but thanks to the support I got from Brotha2Brotha Club.

“They’ve taught us how to live in harmony with our wives, built on mutual respect. I’ve also learned that controlling my wife’s finances and making her work excessively are both forms of abuse.

“When it comes to sex, I’ve realised that I should never force myself on my wife, especially if she’s not feeling well. The training made me see how wrong my actions were and the pain I had inflicted to my wife,” he said with his voice radiating warmth and hope.

After Andrew participated in a series of gender-based violence awareness training sessions, a new understanding blossomed, one rooted in respect and equality. The violence ceased, replaced by a new-found peace that permeated his home.

He had taken a courageous step, breaking free from the shackles of a harmful past and embracing a brighter future for himself, his family and his community.

Elvis Sibanda and Ephias Sibanda

Andrew has apparently transformed from being a perpetrator to a protector. In his village, he has become a beacon of hope, actively intervening in disputes and advocating for the rights of women and girls.

As a proud member of the Brotha2Brotha Club, Andrew joins forces with other reformed men to raise awareness about the harms of GBV and challenge the deeply entrenched patriarchal norms that fuel it.

Through their efforts, they aim to shift the tide of opinion within their communities, fostering a culture of respect and equality for all.

Andrew’s journey is a testament to the power of individual change and the transformative potential of education and awareness programmes being rolled out by Nac in the district. His commitment to ending GBV also serves as an inspiration to countless others, proving that even the most entrenched behaviours can be overcome.

According to research at least one in three women in Zimbabwe encounters physical violence, most at the hands of a husband or partner, a grim statistic of the pervasive issue of GBV in the country.

This alarming reality underscores the urgent need for action to address the root causes of GBV and empower women and girls to live free from fear and violence.

Beyond the chilling statistic, lie untold stories of suffering, pain and resilience. The physical, emotional, and psychological effects of GBV can be devastating, impacting not only individual women but also their families and communities.

While the statistic of one in three women facing physical violence paints a bleak picture nationwide, a glimmer of hope shines in Gwamba Ward of Lupane. Here, men like Andrew have broken free from the harmful societal norms that perpetuate GBV and are actively championing change within their community.

District Aids Co-ordinator for Lupane, Phathumusa Moyo said through sensitisation programmes and open dialogues, men in Gwamba Ward have developed a deeper understanding of the dangers of GBV and its devastating impact on individuals and families.

She said before those sensitisation programmes and open dialogues by Brotha2Brotha Club local leaders were recording about 35 to 40 cases of GBV each month.

“Lupane district, while traditionally enmeshed in a patriarchal structure that fostered high rates of GBV, has witnessed a remarkable turnaround.

“The local leadership, once recording a shocking 35 to 40 GBV cases per month now reports a significant decrease, with only around two cases recorded per month.

“This dramatic shift is attributed to targeted programmes implemented in the ward and other areas within the district by the National Aids Council.

“However, despite the progress on the GBV front, Lupane district, particularly Gwamba Ward, faces another challenge of being an HIV hotspot. This is because of its proximity to Lupane Centre, which experiences high movement of people, potentially contributing to the spread of HIV,” said Phathumusa.

Elvis Sibanda, a community mobiliser in Gwamba Ward, echoes Phathumusa’s sentiments of change.

He recalls a time when cases of GBV were rampant, particularly within their community.

“Back then, men lacked understanding of GBV and its devastating consequences. This resulted in normalisation of harmful behaviours and a culture of silence surrounding GBV.

“However, things have changed. After undergoing impactful training programmes, men in Gwamba have undergone a remarkable transformation.

“Their perspective on GBV has shifted, and a profound understanding of its detrimental effects has taken root. The awareness programme has empowered them to become agents of change, actively challenging harmful traditions and advocating for respect and equality,” Elvis said.

It is clear from Elvis’ observation that Lupane district, particularly Gwamba Ward has made significant strides in reducing GBV cases through targeted interventions.

Ndamuleni Village head Ephias Sibanda (56) hailed the Brotha2Brotha Club being supported by NAC in addressing GBV in the area.

“This programme has helped us tremendously. Men, who were once part of the problem, are now leading the charge as agents of change in the fight against GBV,” he said.

It is also clear that Gwamba Ward’s story demonstrates the power of education and awareness in tackling deeply entrenched societal issues like GBV. By empowering men to become champions of change, society can create a ripple effect that transforms communities and paves the way for a future free from violence and discrimination.

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