THE IMPACT OF PRICE INCREASES IN ZIMBABWE ON FAMILY &GBV
by Hilda Mahumucha
Humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is deteriorating with the economic crisis compounding the impacts of erratic rainfall. Severe food insecurity has escalated during 2018-2019 lean season (October-April). Access to basic services and particularly health care and food has become increasingly challenging due to the economic environment.(UN Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, February 2019).Nearly 3-5 million people in Zimbabwe are estimated to be in urgent need for humanitarian assistance and of that figure over 3,8 million are rural based and most of them are women. At the peak of the lean season these households typically depend on the market for food.
According to a Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) some families have been forced to adopt to painful feeding timetables due to economic challenges, this has raised fears on national prevalence to acute malnutrition. The recent wave of fuel price increase from $1.47-$3.53 per litre which is approximately by over 250 % has adversely affected all commodities across the board, coupled with unemployment rates that are high while unemployment opportunities continue to diminish. Regrettably the public sector which comprises of the majority of employees in the country has not adjusted their employee salaries to reflect such changes. The above situation shows that people’s capacity to withstand new economic shocks is severely compromised as the price increase of basic commodities has eroded the purchasing power of most households.
It is imperative to note that a hyper inflationary environment predispose women to extreme poverty. Women are said to be the most vulnerable to extreme poverty because they have fewer assets and productive resources than men .Given such background young women are likely to be forced into early marriage which in actual fact results in domestic violence. A study carried out attempted to explain the inter-relationship between poverty, hunger and Gender Based Violence (FAO.2017). Gender Based Violence (GBV) is described as socially sanctioned and gender roles and norms tend to vest men with greater access to control and power which leaves their female counterparts more vulnerable. In such cases GBV manifest itself at family level in the form of intimate partner violence. It has been noted that poverty perpetuates tensions at household level hence leading to an increasing GBV as portrayed in the diagram below.
Interrelationships between poverty, hunger and GBV as portrayed by FAO (2017) in the diagram above.
According to FAO, food insecurity is one of the factors that increase the risk of GBV. While it’s acknowledged that both men and women are susceptible to GBV, statistics point to the fact that women are the most affected. Our patriarchal background dictates that women tend to depend on their male counterparts to meet basic survival needs especially in rural areas and this exposes them to emotional and economic abuse. With that background women are bound to be restricted and controlled by the provider, and the option of walking away from such an abusive relationship is difficult hence they end up victims in the process.
Migration of parents and guardians to neighbouring countries is one of the consequences of price increases in Zimbabwe. The consequent absentee parenting has resulted in children and young people becoming de-facto household heads. This is a major drive to child migration, child abuse and child marriages. The five major child migrant sending districts to South Africa are, Mberengwa, Beitbridge, Gwanda, Chipinge and Bulawayo. Many travel unaccompanied and that makes them vulnerable especially to sexual Gender Based Violence. Children are forced to grow up before their time sometimes leads to their conflict with the law. (chiweshe.M.K 2017, unaccompanied children from Zimbabwe to South Africa)
One may conclude that in Zimbabwe price increases have feminized poverty with a greater share of women, single parent family and children being the most vulnerable. As the Economic challenges in Zimbabwe worsens, the situation for women becomes dire to say the least. Whilst the Government is in preparation to mitigate impacts of the poor rainfall that the country received, women should be prioritised as they are the most affected.