DOREEN NAWA, Lusaka
AS the world is celebrating the sixteen days of activism against gender violence which runs from November 25 to December 10, the impact that gender-based violence (GBV) has had on children is deeper than one can think.
GBV which mostly leads to divorce or separation has affected many children.
For them, divorce can be stressful, sad, and confusing. At any age, kids may feel uncertain or angry at the prospect of mom and dad splitting up.
For 17-year-old Mailesi Banda of Lusakaâ€™s Kalikiliki township, going through her parentsâ€™ divorce has changed her life completely.
Now a mother of one, Mailesi says she feels neglected and not being a child born from parents that loved their children.
â€œIf mum and dad didnâ€™t divorce, I was not going to have this child, I partly blame my parents for what I am going through now. Before the divorce, I enjoyed good life and life was so sweet with all our needs being taken care of, but the moment my parents divorced, trouble came into my life,â€ she said.
She narrates how her father used to beat her mother to a point of being hospitalised.
The worst moment for her was when her father, beat her mum until she fainted and the children ran outside screaming for help.
â€œMy dad was more energetic than my mum and every time a fight ensued, mum will always be defeated. One day, I heard my mother telling a friend that dadâ€™s drinking habits and late coming were getting out of hand and that every time she talked to him, dad would pick up a quarrel with mum,â€ Mailesi said.
It was after the divorce that Mailesi got pregnant, â€œI was 14, when my parents divorced and a year later I got pregnant because life was too hard for me, there was no one to take care of my needs. It was during this time that I engaged in a relationship which resulted into me getting pregnant.â€
According Mailesi, helping children cope with divorce means providing stability in the home and attending to childrenâ€™s needs with a reassuring, positive attitude is one thing that is lacking among many divorced parents.
And one of the Latkings Outreach Programme facilitator Fatima Chibamba said as a parent, itâ€™s normal to feel uncertain about how to give your children the right support through your divorce or separation, but always
â€œdivorce emanating from GBV or any misunderstandings should be dealt with very carefully and with the interest of the children at heart. All in all help your kids emerge from divorce feeling loved, confident, and strong,â€ Ms Chibamba said.
A staggering 40 percent of marriages are now doomed to end in divorce, despite the bad press: divorce is bad for your health, bad for your purse and particularly bad for your children, says Ms Chibamba.
â€œThat is not to say that people should never divorce. Any couple locked in a violent relationship would be better off without each other. But for the vast majority of couples with children, divorce will bring a whole new set of problems and children are the most affected,â€ Ms Chibamba said.
And Young Womenâ€™s Christian Association (YWCA) senior counsellor, Ireen Nkunda said many couples who divorce later regret the decision all because of their own health and the well-being of their children.
â€œThey truly regret and wish they would have been better off still married all because of the adverse impact that divorce has on children,â€ Ms Nkunda said.
A number of studies have shown that divorced people are more likely to contract chronic illnesses and die earlier than people who remain married.
She said womenâ€™s expectations of marriage have changed dramatically in the last two decades following the increased levels of GBV.
â€œIf a marriage breaks down, the paradox is that women who are divorced are even more tied by children to the home – both economically and emotionally – than when they were married,â€ Ms Nkunda said.
DOREEN NAWA, Lusaka