The unsung tales of GBV in the world of work

The unsung tales of GBV in the world of work

I am a well known professional lady who has lived under the façade of a happy marriage for 17 years. Whenever my husband gets drunk, he comes violent such that he kicks and punches me in front of our children, forces me to sleep with him and always threatens to kill me. He claims that educated women are stubborn and do not listen or submit to their husbands. At one time, I had to lie to my colleague that I had been attacked by a gang of robbers. I felt sorry for him, I felt sorry for my children. I do not have anyone to turn to. Whenever I tell my parents about this, they tell me not to reveal the messiness of my home to the world. After all, chakafukidza dzimba matenga. A married woman is more honorable than a divorced woman according to our culture. I now find it hard to concentrate at work and this is affecting the quality of my work.


After two years of dating, I finally found the strength to leave my abusive boyfriend. From the outside, he looked well put together but on the inside he was the devil’s agent! He came to my workplace to harass and threaten me and always caused a scene. He stalked me and threatened every person I would talk to. Did I mention that I nearly lost my life one I decided to leave him? I had applied for a Protection Order against him and it was granted. Days later, he paid me an unexpected visit at my home. He always used to say that if he cannot have me then no one else will. He poured petrol on me and on my 2 year old son and set us alight. I survived with burns and permanent ugly scars but my son’s little soul succumbed to the pain and damage. Death separated us. He committed suicide. He denied me my justice and his actions took away the life of my son!


I lost my job in a well accredited firm because I rejected my female boss’s sexual advancements towards me. She then framed a case against me stating that I had embezzled company funds. I was asked to return the money and to further resign from the job. Fearing going to jail as I knew that I was dealing with a powerful and well connected woman, I decided to sell my most prized possessions so as to give her the money she claimed I had stolen. I would rather have my freedom. As for the money, one day my God will fight for me.


I am a young woman who is also a mother to two beautiful children. When my husband who was the sole breadwinner died, his family rejected me and my children and took all of our possessions. I got a job as a maid in the city and I was excited to be finally financially able to cater for my children’s needs. I did not know that I was walking straight into the lion’s den I was raped repeatedly by my boss and he would constantly threaten to kill me if I ever reported. I fell pregnant for my boss and I lost my job in the process when his wife found out. She does not understand me at all. She thinks that I was having an affair with her husband yet I fell prey to his unchaste desires. Now I carry three little innocent lives in my heart and in my hands despite the fact that I feel resentment towards my life.


I am a young married professional who was interning at a good company. I fell pregnant within the first year of working there. Though this was some exciting personal news, my pregnancy did not sit well with my boss. Every little mistake I would do was accompanied by hurting comments. He would say it was not his problem that I decided to get pregnant whilst I was still establishing my career and would disregard doctors orders by stating that the doctor was not his boss and if I needed to keep my job I had to work and this involved lifting heavy documents and boxes and walking long distances to go and pick up various documents at different offices. I fell gravely ill and lost my baby to high blood pressure. To make matters worse, I was forced to resign from the job. I have lost everything that was so dear to me. My husband is unforgiving about what happened to me and this has raised tensions in our home.


All the above stories plus a million more reflect the many faces of GBV which occur in the world of work. However, although both men and women experience GBV at work, the most affected by it are women and their stories are shaped by their socioeconomic statuses influenced by their sexuality, position at work and immigration status in some circumstances. GBV occurring elsewhere, particularly in the home spills over into the workplace as the affected individual loses concentration at work and is prone to performing poorly at work, stigma and discrimination and this results in the individual losing their job.

Let us stop GBV and  make the workplace a safe realm for all lives!

 

Explaining gender discrimination and sexual harassment for women in the mining sector

Explaining gender discrimination and sexual harassment for women in the mining sector

By Nomathemba Ndlovu

Gender discrimination and sexual harassment could affect women’s psychological health, generating stress-related reactions such as emotional trauma, anxiety, depression, anger and low self-esteem and also affect their physical health, causing stress-related diseases such as sleep disorders, headaches, stomach problems and ulcers (Mining Safety, 2013)

According to Pons and Deale (2010) sexual harassment is regarded as ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’ and may include ‘unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct’.

  • Physical conduct of a sexual nature refers to all unwanted physical contact, for example, brushing up against a person, touching a person, forced fondling (Grobler, Wärnich, Carrel, Elbert and Hatfield, 2011) and may also include sexual assault and rape (Pons & Deale, 2010). Going down the shaft, in her helmet and overall, her body is fully covered, but his eyes are piercing right through the overall, all he can just think about is having her in his arms, being inside of her. He moves closer to her as if the moving elevator does not have enough space for both of them. He stands behind her breathing heavily down on her neck. He taps her slightly and she slowly but vigorously pushes him away, as if he does not know what his intentions are he shouts at her, because she is a women, she wants to keep her job, she has to feed her family, she is the bread winner she quickly apologizes for his mistake.
  • Verbal forms of sexual harassment include, among others, unwelcome innuendoes, suggestions and hints, comments with sexual overtones (Pons & Deale, 2010), sexual stories or jokes, whistling and repeatedly asking someone out (Grobler et al., 2011). Working for her orphans, left behind by her husband. Under the scorching sun, on a dry dusty land, she bends to dig, she is sweating so that her children can survive the cruel economic situation. He passes by and says “Mai makabatana”, “Women you are well built/ you have a beautiful structure”. She quickly jumps up, she is afraid to bend and dig, she is now self-conscious is it a crime to be an African woman, tears run down her scotched cheeks, questions in her mind. Why me, can’t women work for their children, how then am I supposed to provide for them.
  • Non-verbal forms of sexual harassment refers to unwelcome gestures, including staring at someone, sending email messages of a sexual nature (Grobler et al., 2011) and the unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects (Pons & Deale, 2010). With the upper part of her overall tied around her waist, her string top is transparent, her breasts are almost gashing out of the small top, she sits on his desk asking for a day off because she has a headache. It is just 6 am, her shift just started. His blood is rushing through his body to concentrate on his manhood, he is trying to control himself but she is slowly touching her breasts in a suggestive manner. He loves his job, he has a wife and children. It does not mean he is weak or insensitive or an abuser but he is a man.

In many areas, women mine workers still encounter significant disrespect and worse. They must be able to go about their work, whether under or above ground, without having to worry that they will face discrimination, harassment or worse. They have a right and they have a voice, they are women they should be heard. As a man you are her voice and as a woman you are his voice. Let us work together to create zero tolerance to sexual harassment in the work place.

 

Calling it out: GBV in Zimbabwe; a woman’s reality!

Calling it out: GBV in Zimbabwe; a woman’s reality!

25 November 2018 marked the beginning of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence. The theme this year is ‘End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work.’ Gender based violence is something we all know too well in Zimbabwe, only we did not call it GBV, it was ma-domestic or swept under the carpet and only the immediate family would know. We all have that one aunt who we heard in the rumor corridors that anororwa nemurume wake ( her husband beats her) or that one uncle who really shouldn’t drink because the moment he drinks he exposes the beast in him. Yes, we all know that one in the family that no one really wants to talk about or confront. It has become so engraved in our society that the famous song Tozeza baba by Oliver Mtukudzi portrayed GBV that we all know too well. The song is about the experience of a child with GBV and the many questions they have with what they witness in their family. The child in the song wonders what their mom does wrong to warrant beating only when he is drunk, he/she wonders also wonders if its alcohol which causes him to beat up his wife.

The nature of GBV in Zimbabwe is not confined to the home, it also shows its ugly heard in the public spaces. Ask any woman in Zimbabwe who has been on the receiving end of sexual harassment in the public space. One cannot walk around without men finding the need to comment about her body or the way she dresses. Comments like sister makabatana , sister munodonedza musika or mune zvinhu zvenyu. Comments that make one self-conscious and uncomfortable and when one does not reciprocate these feelings they quickly turn from praise to hate in a split second.

I will never forget one experience I had as a teenage girl. In those days the touts played god, if they felt your dress was too short they would strip you. On this day I was with my mother after a long day we were on our way home and as soon as I got to market square one tout started whistling and more and more joined it. I didn’t understand what was going on and my mother held me closer. At that moment I realized all this attention was towards me. For some reason they felt my dress was too short and needed to strip me. They started following us, the sheer horror and fear I felt that day I will never forget. That day I understood the horror that women in Zimbabwe experience in public spaces. I did not know about sexual harassment then but deep down I knew what had happened to me was completely wrong.

Sexual harassment does not affect women in the home and public spaces alone but follows women to the work place. Sexual harassment is defined as ‘Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or •such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.’ Sexual harassment takes two forms i.e. Quid Pro Quo, when a job benefit – such as a pay rise, a promotion, or even continued employment – is made conditional on the victim acceding to demands to engage in some form of sexual behavior; or; hostile working environment in which the conduct creates conditions that are intimidating or humiliating for the victim. It can be physical, verbal or nonverbal e.g. touching, comments about appearance, whistling, sexually-suggestive gestures etc.

Over the last few months alone the media has been abuzz with cases of sexual harassment in the workplace in Zimbabwe. With high unemployment and insecure work contracts many women find themselves experiencing sexual harassment. The laws and policies are inadequate in protecting women in the work place and fear of being unemployed plays a huge role in silencing victims of sexual harassment.

As the world commemorates 16 days this year, we as Zimbabweans need to understand that GBV in rifle in women’s lives and we need to do more than just talk about it during 16 days alone. It is not acceptable for a woman to experience GBV in the home, in public spaces and in the workplace. We must end GBV now!

by Caroline Kache

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT

I congratulate the President on his election to office by the people of Zimbabwe, I read through his inauguration speech and was filled with much remorse when I recognized that once again women remain the forgotten group.

Whilst there is general reference to inclusivity and embracing diversity the Presidential speech does not mention the word woman or gender equality. This is a common mistake often made that equality means sameness therefore the assumption being all these opportunities that the President refers to shall be enjoyed by all – men and women alike.

In Zimbabwe today, for far too many women, gender equality has remained largely rhetorical normative frameworks that ensure equality for women need to be translated into daily reality in the lives of all women. Mr President, the advancement of Women needs to remain a central part of Zimbabwe’s development plans.

In the decade that Zimbabwe has struggled women have remained the backbone of the economy and society – therefore more effort needs to be made to increase the economic rights of women and girls in rural areas , to increase their part in development strategies .

Achieving social justice and equality in land cannot happen if women are not a central part of the conversations. Women in Zimbabwe still need to acquire land in their own right, with security of tenure. Our legal framework needs to integrate the right to free prior informed consent to ensure rural communities especially women are protected from arbitrary land grabs for large scale investments without compensation.

An agriculture driven economy as referred to in the Presidential speech cannot be achieved without giving careful consideration to the role of women in food production. Extensive research has continuously shown that 60-70% of food production is carried out by women in rural communities, without adequate support items of assets and inputs. As such government needs to take all necessary steps to implement terms of Human Rights instruments, the 2003 Maputo Declaration (otherwise known as the Protocol to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on women’s rights) specifically requires African states to “promote women’s access to and control over productive resources such as land and guarantee their right to property”.

As we endeavour to open up Zimbabwe for” investment led economic recovery” it is important that the government takes measures to improve on the following;

  • Promote disclosure of basic information about projects – payments, contracts, environmental impacts, etc. – is a necessary but not sufficient condition for improved management of these valuable resources.
  • Citizens, especially women must have basic information about these projects, the revenues they generate and the impacts they produce in order to have a democratic debate on their management and use.
  • In addition, governments must allow for freedom of expression and association to allow citizens especially women, CSOs, journalists and others to use information for accountability purposes.
  • Adopt policies to wean ourselves off of dependence on extractive commodities and use existing revenues to invest in economic diversification, in sectors where women participate the most.
  • To prevent corruption through increased transparency of revenue and expenditure flows.
  • Reduce inequalities in taxes and ring fence taxes/revenue from mineral resources towards community development programmes that benefit women such as improving access to water , renewable energy, health sector among other things

Furthermore government should take all measure to implement the Constitutional provisions on gender equality by promoting women  to participate at all levels of activity, and should be involved, above all, in decision-making levels. This includes but is not limited to ensuring that the new Cabinet has 50% women .The President needs to promote women’s rights, so they could be “agents of change” for sustained socio-economic development. “Without women’s empowerment and gender equality, Zimbabwe will not be able to achieve the SDG Goals and their full development potential,”

Re-visiting the Story Of ‘Neria’ 25 Years Later

Re-visiting the Story Of ‘Neria’ 25 Years Later

Re-visiting the Story Of ‘Neria’ 25 Years Later

In relation to the inheritance rights of Women And Children In Zimbabwe`

Kufirwa nemurume hanzvadzi (When a husband dies my sister) Zvinoda moyo wekushinga (It calls for a strong willed heart) Usawore moyo ka Neria (Don’t be disheartened Neria) Mwari anewe (God is with you) Oliver Mtukudzi, Neria he film Neria was a well-crafted Zimbabwean film which zoomed in on the inheritance rights of women and children in Zimbabwe.

Being the highest grossing film in Zimbabwean history, it captivated both the local and international audience. It focused on the life of the protagonist Neria, who was a young modern woman whose husband died in a car accident.
Taking advantage of Neria’s grief, her late husband’s older brother Phineas selfishly took everything that Neria and her husband Patrick had worked for. At the end of the film, the audience saw Neria regaining custody of her children and her husband’s property through the assistance of a lawyer. This gave Neria the heroine status that she is still know for today in Zimbabwean film and media. However, it has been 25 years since the film Neria aired on national television but it is still alarming to see the number of widows who are still going through the same fate as the protagonist Neria, but without the happy ending. In many parts of Zimbabwe,women and their children are often excluded from inheriting from their husband’s estates and such property stripping/ property grabbing is driving widows into extreme poverty. The patriarchal nature of some of our Zimbabwean customs is still upholding the belief that a woman does not inherit anything after her husband dies- especially if he dies intestate. This is known to emanate from a history dating as back as the colonial period whereby female oppression was prevalent. Just as there was belief of not educating the female child because she would go off to get married, women were regarded as having no capacity to act as consenting adults who were capable of owning property or even entering into enforceable contracts. Despite the fact that Zimbabwean law has remarkably made a constitutional provision highlighting that women are equal in status with men before the law and further guaranteeing that women and children should be accommodated for in inheritance matters, many women and children are struggling to claim these rights for the following reasons: If it is an unregistered customary marriage, the challenge lies in proving the marriage.

Doing so is difficult as courts can require confirmation from the widow’s in-laws who are the very people who stand to benefit if the marriage is not confirmed. Till date, there is resounding belief that the laws that currently govern marriages and deceased persons estates in Zimbabwe are to the advantage of those in civil marriages (Chapter 5:11) and those in registered customary marriages (Chapter 5:07). Unfortunately, the majority of marriages in Zimbabwe fall under unregistered customary marriages. A significant number of cases which are prevalent in the ruralareas are due to the lack of legal knowledge. Some societies (although no longer the norm) still believe in the inheritance of the widow and the deceased person’s estate (kugarwa nhaka). So many women who fallunder this category are not aware
of the rights that they possess.Those who are successful in warding off intimidation tactics by their in-laws face procedural difficulties as court fees are exorbitant and are deterrence such that some widows would require proceeds from their property to pay for the cost of the proceedings. Others have to travel from afar to resolve issues with the deceased’s estate and with the current prevailing economic climate some choose not to continue with the process. Conclusively, the above issues highlight that there is still a lot of work to do with regard to reforming inheritance laws in Zimbabwe so that widows, despite the type of marriage they are contracted to, are protected from greedy
relatives. The harmonisation of our marriage laws together with those dealing with the administration of the deceased’s estates will surely guarantee a fairy-tale ending to our widows and their children’s plight and will ultimately reflect the purpose and will of the Constitution. Although it has been 25 years since the film Neria aired, we can safely say that there are many Nerias out there who are also waiting for their happy ending and many subscribe to the lyrics of the song Neria by popular artist Oliver Mtukudzi.

By Michelle