FACT Zimbabwe in collaboration with the Ministry of Women Affairs Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development (MoWACSMED), recently conducted an inter-district Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) campaign at Cross Musami in Murehwa district of Mashonaland East province with special focus on violence against female sex workers. The campaign was held under FACT Zimbabwe’s Voices from the Fringes- Female Sex Workers and Adolescent Girls & Young Women Action against SGBV project which is funded by the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UNTF) as part of the Spotlight Initiate.

The campaign comes at the backdrop of an increase in reported incidences of SBV against female sex workers in some instances resulting in loss of life. For instance, recently Mashonaland East province recorded several suspected rape and murder cases of female sex workers including one of the Voices from the Fringes project beneficiaries in Macheke area. Such incidences and revelations prompted FACT Zimbabwe and partners to host awareness campaigns on SGBV in Murehwa, Goromonzi and Kwekwe under the Voices from the Fringes project to curb the transgression and in the spirit of Agenda 2030 of ‘Leaving No One Behind!’

To showcase their experiences of SGBV, project beneficiaries used edutainment through dramas and testimonials which sought to highlight the forms of violence faced by women, reporting mechanisms and the various services available for survivors of SGBV.  Thematic messages displayed on placards aimed to sensitize and further buttress key messages on the dangers of SGBV that were being delivered by various partners and stakeholders.

Several speakers notably project beneficiaries, Member of Parliament for Murehwa East/West constituency, representatives of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and civil society organizations working in Murehwa expressed their views and suggestions on how to collaborate and curb the scourge of SGBV in their area and beyond.

“For the elimination of SGBV in our communities, both men and women should work together by starting various income-generating projects that the Government of Zimbabwe is spearheading under the National Development Strategy 1. This in turn will reduce women’s dependency on men and lessens poverty which most households experience and in turn reduce the number of poverty-induced SGBV cases,” said the Member of Parliament for Murehwa, Honourable Jonah Nyikadzino Sewera during his address.

“The community is also responsible for the reporting of these cases and should work closely with law enforcement agents to see to it that perpetrators of SGBV are brought to justice,” he added.

Also speaking during the awareness campaign, was the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Officer In Charge for Murehwa, Inspector Chipo Nyandoro, who urged the community to report cases of SGBV that happen in the communities.

“With the complementary efforts of civil society organizations, the community does have an equal role to play in ending SGBV in our communities. This can be done when cases of SGBV are reported and effectively attended to with the help of the community. When law enforcement officers are compromised during investigations of a suspected SGBV case the community must make it known through the right channels within the police so that corrective measures are taken,” she said.

The awareness campaign which reached out to more than 350 people sensitized the community of Murehwa on what is SGBV; the available SGBV reporting mechanisms as well as FACT Zimbabwe’s National Helpline toll-free number which, provides information and counselling on issues about SGBV, legal and psychosocial services. Stakeholders which included Musami Hospital, CeSHHAR; Women against All Forms of Discrimination (WAAD), ZWLA, All Women Advocacy and FACT provided outreach services which included legal advice, COVID-19 vaccination, HIV Self Testing, Condom and sanitary ware distributions.

63 people were tested for HIV, 2 tested positive to HIV and were initiated on ART, 420 female condoms were distributed, 2100 male condoms were distributed and 19 people were vaccinated against COVID-19, 30 received sexual reproductive health information, SGBV service directory and sensitization on SGBV

The focus of the campaign was also in line with global observations that female sex workers are among the groups that are at higher risks of HIV infections and SGBV. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, women sex workers are estimated to be 30 times more likely to be living with HIV than other women of reproductive age. Female sex workers also face an increased burden of blood-borne infections including sexually transmitted infections. At the same time, Zimbabwe as a country has made commendable strides towards ending various forms of SGBV against women and girls through the alignment of the Marriages Act and the Age of sexual consent which has been set at 18 years and the recognition of sex work as an occupation during the 2022 National Population Census.