Tendai Gukutikwa and Nyasha Mapasa Post Correspondents
WITH taped mouths to signify the conspiracy of silence surrounding the scourge of violence against women and girls, hundreds of Christians from different denominations took to the streets of Mutare on Wednesday to mark the recently launched “Speak up: No Longer Silent” campaign.
Clad in their different church regalia and mouths taped with black adhesive tape, the congregants and development partners marched from Sakubva Beit Hall to Hilltop United Methodist Church.
The campaign, which ran under the theme “Speak Out”, was launched by different church leaders to commemorate the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, which runs from November 25 to December 10.
The event was organised by Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme (DOMCCP) with support from Trocaire, Plan International and SIDA.
DOMCCP communications officer Mr Kudakwashe Chidziya said the campaign was meant to encourage both men and women to break the silence on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). Most women suffer in silence.
“We have rolled out the Speak Out campaign as an advocacy strategy aimed at reducing the impact and social acceptance of SGBV).
“Religion and culture are some of the leading elements which perpetuate women’s silence, especially on issues of violence. This initiative seeks to break that culture of silence,” he said.
DOMCCP executive director Mr Robert Munhenga said they engaged religious leaders because they have the power to create the much needed change towards ending gender based violence.
“We have engaged the religious leaders so that we have the pronouncements starting from the pulpit denouncing gender based violence. We expect their followers to cascade the message to their homes, workplaces and communities,” he said.
Mutare Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Reverend Paul Horan also urged church leaders to be on the forefront of speaking out against SGBV.
“I challenge church leaders to take lead and encourage congregants to speak out. When SGBV takes place in our churches, let us not sweep it under the carpet to protect the church. Instead, let us hate it with the same passion with which we hate sin because it is sin,” he said.
The campaign also received support from Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCDs), an umbrella body of the four main religious networks – the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) and Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA).
According to the latest Zimbabwe Health Demographic Survey, more than 35 percent of married women aged between 15 and 49 years experience spousal violence in their partnerships. As of 2015, seven out of 10 women were being affected by gender-based violence on a daily basis.