MIKE MUGALA, Lusaka
THE 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls, which started running on November 25, comes to an end today.
But the fight continues.
The stories of GBV are real.
Marjory Kumwenda and her husband were a loving couple when they lived in Lundazi district of the Eastern Province. But when they came to Lusaka, Marjory’s marriage became a living hell.
“We got married in 2010, and everything was just okay,” she says.
“My husband came to look for greener pasture in Lusaka in 2011. I followed him in 2012, he was working for the Chinese and his salary was K500, our marriage was peaceful though we had a few challenges.
“Problems started when my husband found a higher paying job. He started working in Roma Park and was getting K1,500, he drastically changed and stopped being responsible. He started coming home late and would at times sleep out and could beat me whenever I queried him.”
Her husband’s irresponsibility forced her to start doing piecework to fend for her family. But that came with a price too.
“My husband always demanded that I give him money to buy beer from whatever money I realised from my piecework while he spent his salary on beer,” she says.
“When I got pregnant with our second child in 2014, I thought my husband was going to change but to no avail.”
Even with her pregnancy, Marjory would move around selling her maize just to put food on her table and pay for rentals.
“He used to beat me badly if I refused to give him money for beer,” she says. “He told to follow him to the bar and take the money whenever I finished selling so that he could use it to buy beer.”
Despite all the sufferings, Marjory held on to her marriage with the hope that her husband will change his ways.
“I went to report my husband to the Victim Support Unit at Ng’ombe Clinic but he ran away and went to the Copperbelt,” she says. “He told me to go back to village when he came back later.”
However, she held on to the marriage, still hoping that he will change. But she was hoping against hope.
When she had her third child last year, matters got worse. Her husband started threatening to kill her.
“I gave up on my marriage when he started telling me that he will hire people to kill me and get his children,” she says. “I could not take this anymore, I left my matrimonial home and started staying alone but he would still come and beat me.”
Marjory is a totally broken woman. She thinks marriage is total slavery.
“Even if my husband would come back, I would not accept to get back with him,” she says. “I have lost confidence in marriage, and I believe it is better to be single.”
Marjory says she would rather suffer than be in a marriage characterised with torture and violence.
“I now depend on workshops organised by the Gender Based Violence Survivor Support (GBVSS) workshop [transport] reimbursements and making fritters,” she says. “Though life is challenging, am better off.”
Marjory is urging other people who are going through abusive marriages to walk out of them before they lose their lives.
“There’s nothing more valuable than life,” she says. “It is better to suffer alone than being in an abusive marriage, I know it is challenging to come out but people must always gather courage and report such cases.”
GBVSS programmes manager Manyando Chisenga says the reporting of GBV cases is still very low especially in the rural parts of the country.
“I can confirm that the fight against GBV has gained momentum and we moving at a good pace as a country, however, the cases seem to be going up because few people come out to break the silence,” Mrs Chisenga says.
She says GBVSS is committed to partnering with Government in fighting gender violence and in supporting survivors.
“The goal of the GBVSS project is to increase the availability and uptake of quality services for adult and child survivors of GBV,” she says. “The project has three specific objectives of strengthening GBV survivor support services, strengthening GBV response and coordination efforts.”
Mrs Chisenga says limited shelters to protect survivors of GBV from further abuse and lack of a Statutory Instrument on minimum standards on shelter, compromises quality of service being provided in existing shelters.
“We have over the years scored successes in the fight against GBV through capacity building of health workers, in multidisciplinary management of GBV, enhancing the capturing of more cases of GBV, and reducing the likelihood of missing clients, particularly beyond the operational hours of GBV specialised centres,” she says.
Still, there is more work to be done.