CHRISTINE CHISHA, Chongwe
WHEN I found Chishala (not real name) at the Chongwe District Hospital One-Stop Centre, she was distraught.
She had been chased from home by her parents for falling pregnant at the age of 16.
A psychosocial counsellor at the one-stop centre was giving her advice and urging her to keep the pregnancy against her choice to abort.
Sharing her ordeal, Chishala said she was devastated by the rejection she suffered at the hands of her parents when they learnt she was in the motherly way.
“A member of the neighbourhood found me wondering around in the night and she took me to her home where I spent the night and in the morning, she brought me at the hospital,” she said.
The rejection for Chishala also came from her boyfriend, who could not understand why she fell pregnant when she could have used a pill.
Chishala’s situation is not the only case that the one-stop centre has recorded since the beginning of 2018.
Four days into the New Year, the Chongwe District Hospital One-Stop Centre recorded 13 gender-based violence (GBV) cases.
Psychosocial counsellor at the centre, Clara Kampampa, states that the cases range from defilement, rape, physical assault and attempted abortion.
From her observation, the cases escalated during the festive period, with some perpetrators being relatives of the victims.
“The GBV cases went up during the festive period. It is unfortunate that most young people were defiled and raped by close family relatives,” Ms Kampampa said.
She said a number of children are traumatised. The trauma is made worse because perpetrators are sometimes their step-fathers, uncles and biological fathers who are shielded by their mothers.
The shielding of the perpetrators was a discovery made during the counsellors’ community monitoring activities and they have put measures in place.
“We have since formed community groups that help report cases to the hospital and sometimes they bring the GBV victims to the hospital,” Ms Kampamba said.
Ms Kampampa said once every month, they go round schools and health centres in the villages in Chongwe to conduct sensitisation programmes.
Advocacy is not adequate to end the vice. The community is exploring alternative strategies to combat GBV.
Ms Kampampa said the Men’s Network has been helpful in the fight against GBV in Chongwe. It has proved that some men are eager to learn how to support women and end GBV.
Centre for Reproductive Health and Education executive director Amos Mwale said the strategy of fighting GBV in the nation is focused more on women.
“Women are more sensitised than men and also stakeholders have become reluctant in the fight against GBV, the reason cases have continued escalating. It is time the civil society organisations went back to the ground and talk to men, women and children,” he said.
Mr Mwale said messages of GBV need continued sensitisation because people grow.
“The people that were sensitised five years ago are not the same people. They have grown and now is the time to educate the younger ones,” he said.
Mr Mwale suggests that the nation can win the fight against GBV if sensitisation started at household level.
“Children need to be taught how to respect women at an early age. We need to prevent GBV from occurring so that we reduce the number of cases,” he said.
Centre for Reproductive Health and Education is this year focusing on sensitising children and men countrywide, and will work closely with the Ministry of Gender for continued sensitisation.
The total number of GBV cases reported from the first quarter to the third quarter of 2017 stands at 16,090 compared to 13,092 GBV cases during the same period in 2016, representing an increase of 2,998 or 18.6 percent.
And Zambia National Women’s Lobby National agrees with Mr Mwale’s sentiments that CSOs have become reluctant in the fight against GBV.
Board chairperson Beauty Katebe is of the view that a new strategy in the fight needs to be invented to bring down cases, which have escalated in the past three months.
The cases keep rising though Government has put in place legislature to fight GBV.
“I am calling upon Zambians to embark on self-introspection, asking ourselves questions such as: “Is this a Zambia we want to create for young people by inflicting pain on children or can we accept the pain our partners inflict on us?” she said.
Ms Katebe feels the church has done a lot in sensitising against GBV and work places should now join the fight.
“I am appealing to organisations to set-up counselling desks where people with issues could go before they leave the offices and return home calm,” she suggested.
Ms Katebe said the unnecessary loss of life, grievous and sometimes irreversible harm being inflicted on victims of GBV, indicates the gravity of the problem at hand.
Government, with co-operating partners, has established fast-track courts in Kabwe and Lusaka while four more are scheduled to be launched in Chipata, Livingstone, Mongu and Ndola.
However, without sufficient reproductive health information and services, the country will still see high rates of adolescent pregnancy, rape, defilement and physical assault.