HomeNewsVagina Monologues play lights up anti-gender violence celebrations

Vagina Monologues play lights up anti-gender violence celebrations

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The Vagina Monologues, an activist play raising awareness about violence against women and encouraging women and girls to celebrate their sexuality, was the climax at celebrations to mark 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence held recently at Tendayi Hall in Chipadze, Bindura.

ROPAFADZO MAPIMHIDZE

The play, which is based on more than 200 women’s interviews conducted internationally by its author Eve Ensler, was performed by Katswe Sistahood, a Zimbabwean group of young women that kept audiences in stitches of laughter.

Each of the monologues deals with an aspect of the feminine experience, touching on matters such as sex, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, the various common names for the vagina, or simply as a physical aspect of the body.

A recurring theme throughout the piece is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality.

The play is a hilariously witty and moving collection of tales that give voice to a chorus of lusty, outrageous, poignant, brave and thoroughly human stories.

Kessia Magoshan, a musician and gender activist, also put up an energetic performance as she sang and danced at the event leaving many women yearning for more.

Organised by the Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD), the theme for 2013 is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism to End Violence against Women!

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute co-ordinated by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.

Participants chose the dates November 25 — International Day against Violence against Women – and December 10 — International Human Rights Day in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasise that such violence is a violation of human rights.

There is however a strong link between domestic violence and HIV and Aids as most women who live under such conditions cannot negotiate for safer sex.

“For three years now, the 16 days have been commemorated under the above mentioned theme,” IYWD director Glanis Changachirere said.

Changachirere said in an interview that Mashonaland Central province recorded the highest number of cases in Zimbabwe.

“This is happening despite enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2007. Violence against women has skyrocketed with women and girls falling victims to all forms of violence taking place in their private spaces.

“Common cases on record are incidents of rape, early and forced marriages, physical assaults, psychological and emotional abuse, and sexual violence among many others.

“This endemic has also resulted in death of some women,” Changachirere said.

Domestic violence is a longstanding issue around which local women’s organisations have advocated, continues to be a reality in every part of the country.
It is estimated that a majority of women experience violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.

Another form of gender based violence occurs mainly around election time.

This is violence perpetrated by political activists, as they use violence to achieve political goals by employing militaristic ideologies.
“Political violence is usually caused by people who are jealous about successful people in their neighbourhoods.

“Mashonaland Central is a politically volatile province and that violence manifests targeting women.

“This province also has so many mines and farms where women and men fight for space in those areas. However, women end up being raped or beaten as they go about their business to eke a living,” Changachirere said.

She also noted that there are instances where women have fought physical battles with police, a situation that she described as worrisome.
“This begins with the perpetrator who was subjected to violence in the past, which he passes on to the weaker sex. This eventually becomes a way of life,” she said.
Mashonaland Central was affected so much during the war of liberation that subjected many people to violence and death in the area

“We work with traditional leaders that have established peace committees. These committees detect violence in their areas of jurisdiction and decide whether or not to take the matter to the police or chief’s court.

“The way to address domestic violence should be a people driven process first before it is referred to a structural process, “Changachirere said.

Political violence is also used as a tactic to drive fear, and to humiliate and punish women, their families, and communities.

While there has been some attention to this crime in recent years, sexual violence remains a major barrier to women’s safety, political participation and reintegration, as its effects are physically, psychologically, and socially debilitating.

The lack of accountability and failure to bring perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence to justice remains a critical challenge to ending politically motivated gender based violence in Zimbabwe.

“While there are a number of factors that contribute to violence against women, militarisation tops the list. Militarisation which is basically the use of force has been on record as having militated on this vice.

“Militarisation in Zimbabwe manifests in the form of heavy handedness by state institutions that include the army and police. Although there has not been armed struggle post-independence, Zimbabwe has seen an increase in victimisation of women and girls by police on allegations of loitering and soliciting for sex, arrests and physical harassment of women by municipal police on the pretext of illegal vending,” Changachirere said.

“My organisation works with marginalised communities in rural, farming and mining areas where we witness militarization of women by men who are either relatives or strangers as they are perceived to be a weaker sex.

“It is against this background that IYWD has gathered women, including young women and girls, to demand from our policy makers for demilitarisation in all spheres of life,” she said.

Over 100 women gathered at Tendayi Hall in Chipadze Township, Bindura, to observe these commemorations.

The IYWD was established four years ago targeting at women within the 16 to 35 years age group. The Bindura-based organisation offers entrepreneurial skills to empower women so that they can become self-reliant.

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