Gender-based Violence (GBV) undermines and denies women of opportunities whilst weakening their abilities to fully utilize their rights and potential. According to Zimbabwe Demographic and Health 2015 Survey1 in 3 women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence and 1 in 4 women have been sexually violated. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by economic hardships and climate change. Many of these women are financially dependent on their husbands, which generates tensions in the household.

Mai Gudya (Not Real Name) from Chimanimani district has had to endure GBV in her marriage for years. She says most of the fights with her husband emanated from financial misunderstandings.

“My husband works at a farm and his salary is not enough to cater for our family’s needs. Most of the time my husband would end up physically assaulting me because we would be fighting over money. Being a full-time housewife was not easy, each time I asked for money, we would end up fighting and this had been affecting even my mental health.”

To end GBV and mitigate its effects, Family AIDS Caring Trust through the USAID/UNFPA supported Building Resilient Sustainable Community Systems (BRSCS) program works with like-minded organisations and the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Small and Medium Enterprises Development to ensure increased availability and utilization of GBV services by survivors. Part of the efforts includes creating safe spaces for survivors, offering psychosocial support, and livelihood activities and referring them for clinical and legal services.

In their various wards in Chimanimani, GBV survivors received sewing machines and were trained on how to use them as an income-generating activity.

Mai Gudya was glad to share that the situation in her marriage has changed for the better since she started attending safe space.

“Ever since I was introduced to the safe space, the situation in my household has changed. This is because we were taught that as women, we need to be financially independent; start our income-generating projects which will help meet household needs that our husbands may be failing to meet,” said Mai Gudya.

“We were given two sewing machines and trained on how to sew. When my husband saw some of the clothes we were sewing at the safe space, he bought me a sewing machine which I am now using to sew school uniforms for sale in my community. We also received training on savings groups and started our own in Tilbury. The money from the savings group helped me purchase material for the uniforms and start my own poultry project. I recently started growing vegetables for consumption at home and I am hoping to be selling excess soon. I learnt about diversifying sources of income, so I also have a flea market stand where I sell clothes.

Mai Gudya says she is now active in decision-making in her household, something which she had never experienced as her husband was a dictator.

“I am grateful for the safe space because now I can happily say the violence that I used to experience in my marriage has reduced. I am now able to contribute to decisions made in the household because I also contribute financially. I no longer need to wait for my husband’s salary to get my children their needs or to buy my utensils. My household has become peaceful because our main source of quarrelling has been dealt with,” she said.

“I would like to also appreciate the counselling sessions that we get from the behaviour change facilitators and fellow women. When you are alone you think your problems are too big for you and sometimes you become suicidal but when you share with other women you get advice on how to deal with the issues. The safe space had become a happy place for most women here because we are free from judgement and abuse.”

Mai Gudya is one of the 2110 women and young girls who have been reached with psychosocial support and livelihood activities in Chimanimani.