A NEW non-governmental organisation that is aimed at empowering girl children will today hold a march under the theme, Churches Uniting to fight against Rape, which will bring together churches around Chitungwiza, in an effort to fight child sexual abuse in churches.
Shamwari Yemwana Sikana (SYS), which was started in 2012, but formally registered this year, is targeting men of the cloth for zero-tolerance against rape, and hence the reason why they are holding a march to create this awareness.
“The organisation was established in order to cater for girls who have been marginalised and we want to elevate the girl child in all spheres from economic, spiritual and social aspect of the girl child.
“The inspirational story of Shamwari yeMwana Sikana started two years ago as a concept by Ekenia Chifamba Chidodo, who founded the organisation. She was raised in Chitungwiza where she came across a marginal increase in cases involving violence against girls and women, resulting in her desire to become the game changer she is today,” said SYS community development officer, Chakanetsa Ruzvidzo.
He said it was Chifamba-Chidodo’s unconditional passion to see the girl child liberated that drove her to start the organisation having been worked for a similar organisation that dealt with empowerment of the girl child for nearly five years.
“She and some of her like-minded colleagues could not fold hands and watch the girl child languishing and hence started this organisation with the aim of emancipating the girl child from all forms of abuse that have and continue to hinder her development.
“The heart of the organisation addresses concerns of the girl child and to protect her from all issues that have the potential to destroy her dreams, hopes and full development. Therefore, the organisation comprises committed young men and women who each have a story of their own. Majority of the people working for SYS have worked in organisations that fight for the rights of children and women, who came together, combining intellectual and material resources to take up the fight for girls’ rights to a higher level ensuring these young people become future empowered women, a rare breed of women who are not victimsbut victors in all spheres of life, despite one’s race or creed.
“We have assisted over 200 girls since we started operating this year and also given support to an orphanage called Maunganidze which is located in Chitungwiza,” Ruzvidzo said.
He said a number of people in the community have been touched by the plight of the girl child so much so that they now appreciate the need to address gender disparities in the community and further appreciate SYS’s role in empowering and facilitating the development of the girl child.
It also set up ambassadors in churches around Chitungwiza.
The organisation is involved in the holistic and total empowerment of the girl child as well as the eradication of all forms of abuse and practices that in part or in whole, directly or indirectly impede on the growth of the girl child through:
Supporting and providing for her entrepreneurial efforts
Fight HIV and Aids
Some of their objectives include; engaging stakeholders including communities, schools, governments and policymakers in advocacy and lobbying for eradication of practices which impede the girl child’s full physical, emotional, spiritual growth and development.
The organisation aims at promoting positive attitude towards the girl child by society; create room for, provide for and support the full empowerment of the girl child in all spheres of her life; document and disseminate information on girls’ rights, HIV treatment and education and psychosocial support; to promote the reproductive health of girls through advocating for the provision and improved access to reproductive health facilities; to promote girls interaction access to ICTs; to work with children’s homes and take vulnerable girls to safe shelters and lastly to support girls’ spheres of debate and offer solutions to situations they are faced with.
“The organisation was established with a particular mandate to be a haven for girls between the ages of 0 – 18 years. It emerged not only to advocate on their behalf, but also to empower them to speak out for themselves when their rights are being violated.
The commencement of its formal existence in 2014 sparked momentum of great things to come. The once isolated girl child found a conduit to express her dilemma, concern and voice out sensitive issues like rape, HIV and Aids, forced marriages and premarital sex and communicate her aspirations and hopes in an effective manner,” Chakanetsa said.
By the end of July 2014 the organization had dealt with over hundreds of child abuse cases in Chitungwiza, Gutu, Gokwe, Featherstone and other areas.
“We have since started working on Girls Empowerment Clubs in Zimbabwe, spread over eight of Zimbabwe’s 58 districts. The club will be the core of the organisation and will make it the only grassroots movement for girls in Zimbabwe. SYS, through its empowerment strategy, will help its members to fully utilise their potential as future women leaders.
“A new breed of women is being empowered every day through SYS which has brought a new dimension in the fight for gender equality and equity while at the same time dealing with some challenges that come with the HIV and Aids pandemic and gender based violence,” Chakanetsa said.
The organisation also carried out a desk study on all the policies, practices and beliefs that impacted negatively on the well-being of girls in Zimbabwe.
Awareness activities were rolled out in communities such as Seke and Chihota resulting in a number of cases that were once concealed within families and communities being unearthed.
“The empowerment that went with it (the awareness) resulted in communities reporting cases of abuse to SYS or other responsible authorities such as the police and school authorities.
“The organisation has gathered support from communities such Chihota, Seke and Chitungwiza as seen in the increased participation of women, boys and men in empowerment activities which have attracted hundreds of people from all walks of life.
This shows a paradigm shift in attitudes towards issues concerning the girl child in which case people initially had a negative attitude towards the girl child thinking that whatever happened to her in the community, school and home was the norm rather than a case of violation of her rights,” Chakanetsa said.
On the other hand, men have actively participated in girl child monitoring committees set up in communities like Seke rural and Seke urban to report cases of abuse and institute measures to apprehend perpetrators while waiting for the police also they assist her in every sphere of her life so that she realises her dreams just like any other girl.
Women from Seke rural have gone a step further by establishing a support network that has helped SYS in advocacy activities such as demonstrations and marches and have participated in almost every SYS programme in Seke.
“To date SYS has made use of the social media networks to disseminate information and has a running Facebook page where most activities are highlighted and a notable number of funding agencies and organisations have liked it, for instance ActionAid, Hivos, UNFPA, Musasa, among others as well as a Twitter handle.
“SYS has developed a culture of documentation and dissemination of information from girls to other stakeholders. This has gone a long way in tracking statistics on child sexual abuse unearthed through various awareness campaign thus maintaining an effective analysis of girl child empowerment programmes through girls’ stories, dramas, sports, poetry, songs and other artistic performance,” Chakanetsa said.
The SYS team includes Sibongile Mhlanga, who is the programmes manager, Kumbirai Kahiya Chikowero, the grants, development and communications manager, Fortunate Mtombeni, a grants, communications and development officer; Tawanda Kandemiri, information, documentation and dissemination manager, Kelvin Tendekai Nyamugama, the administration and finance executive; Yollunda Chikudza, the administration officer .
Other officers on the team are Fadzai Nhamoinesu, the advocacy and lobby officer Nomphilo Maraire-Masikati, the victim support and protection officer, Nyasha Mandovha, the victim support and protection officer and Talent Kufa, the education, training and target beneficiary officer.