DARLINGTON MWENDABAI, Chipata
WOMEN are visible victims of gender-based violence (GBV) while men are invisible victims who suffer in silence globally.
Instead of pitting men against women, boys against girls, equality seems to be a way to go under the banner of â€˜HeForSheâ€™ worldwide campaign, a brain child of Elizabeth Nyamayaro, senior advisor to the executive director of UN Women.
The campaign has spread globally with the sole aim of promoting equality between men and women, boys and girls.
Ms Nyamayaro, a Zimbabwean, never thought her 20-year dream would be a vehicle for tackling the inequalities that have gulfed the world of men and women for many years.
HeForShe is a worldwide feminist campaign launched by the UN Women to promote gender equality by encouraging men to openly speak out against sexism and discrimination in solidarity with the women rights movement.
The campaign was announced by Emma Watson, the British actress from the Harry Potter film franchise and newly appointed UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador at the UN headquarters in New York, United States on September 20, 2014.
The HeForShe campaign, under the Impact 10x10x10 initiative, was launched as a one-year pilot effort to engage 10 governments, 10 corporations and 10 universities as instruments of change and targets some communities in addressing womenâ€™s empowerment and gender equality.
World leaders like Malawian President Peter Mutharika have already shown commitment to promoting women empowerment and gender equality.
Professor Mutharika, who is champion of the HeforShe campaign in his country, doubles the positions following the official announcement of his global appointment on June 18, 2015.
The other heads of state and government appointed in theÂ Impact 10x10x10 initiative are from Finland, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Romania, Rwanda and Sweden, among others.
But the gloomy picture still lingers in the minds of many as the world, including Zambia, searches for a lasting solution to gender-based violence that seems endless.
According to a 2013 global review report, 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
However, some national violence studies show that up to 70 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner.
It is also estimated that of all women killed in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members.
This is why President Edgar Lungu joined world leaders as HeforShe champion.
Mr Lungu has since launched the â€œHeForSheâ€ gender campaign in Petauke with a call for men to allow women to freely participate in the social, economic and political development of the country.
He observed that leaving girls behind and women in social and economic development will hinder national development.
â€œI joined this fight because we are equal under the banner of â€˜One Zambia, One Nationâ€™â€¦men from all walks of life should join in the HeForShe campaign,â€ President Lungu said.
He extended the call to all chiefs through the 38 traditional leaders who witnessed the launch of the campaign in Chief Nyampandeâ€™s area, where he also opened the Nyampande GBV one-stop shop project at Misoro Village.
President Lunguâ€™s call to both men and women was clear: â€œEnd bad practices that encourage early marriages among girls, end GBV and promote equality between men and women as well as boys and girls.â€
He added, â€œLet Zambia be a land of peace where citizens strive to develop the country under the banner of â€˜One Zambia One Nationâ€™.â€
The head of state commended the traditional leaders, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Women for Change and other stakeholders for supporting the campaign.
UNDP global administrator Hellen Clark thanked President Lungu and the chiefs for their effective role in the fight against GBV and gender inequality in the country.
Women for Change chairperson Margaret Maimbolwa said the Misoro centre is linked to the Victim Support Unit of the Zambia Police Service in Petauke, which provides a practical face for the communityâ€™s efforts to follow up on GBV cases with relevant institutions.
But others have observed the feminist HeForShe campaign should not only focus on women and girls but also help tackle the plight of men and boys.
A 2014 brief paper into the mainstream: â€˜Addressing Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) Against Men and Boys in Conflictâ€™ by Dr Chris Dolan reveals horrifying testimonies of victims of war time atrocities as told by a Burundi genocide survivor.
In 2006 people from X rebel group, soldiers told Tom (not real name) to help them carry food to the bush where they were fighting.
Tom narrated that he had a wife and children.
â€œSome of us helped them carry the guns to the bush. We were many people. Women carried food items. When we reached the bush they said â€˜let the males come here. We were six.â€
He continued, â€œThey told us â€˜you bendâ€™ (men). Then they said â€˜you remove your clothes.â€™ We thought they wanted to beat us…They raped all of us. For me it was even more difficult; I was raped by two men.â€
Tom recounted, â€œI felt a lot of pain in the abdomen. What pained me was that they said â€˜donâ€™t think we are the only people to do that, you should also do thatâ€™. They told us to rape others among ourselves.â€
A law professor at Britainâ€™s Nottingham University Sandesh Sivakumaran observes that victims of SGBV, especially boys and men, have generally been mentioned as a footnote in many reports.
However, it is now agreed among academia that there are no detailed statistics on the number of male victims of SGBV in Zambia and globally.
According to the World of Psychology researchers, men usually are blamed for abuse because of modern gender stereotypes.
The researchers argue that women are perceived as the weaker, gentler sex, and men as being stronger and having natural tendencies towards violence. These stereotypes are false.
But what is true globally, including in Zambia, is that both men and women are victims of GBV.
DARLINGTON MWENDABAI, Chipata