Source: The Zimbabwean
It is that time of the year once again – no, not Christmas, the time we commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. There has been so much talk about peace recently, especially in Zimbabwe, and this is a good step considering this year’s 16 Days theme, “From peace in the home to peace in the world: Let’s challenge militarism and end violence against women.”

 With that in mind, it is useful that each person plays their role in ensuring sustainable peace from their personal space to the public space and of course, the duty bearers have the greater responsibility to ensure protection and security for women. Five key aspects fall into place with this year’s theme and so activism will be centred on these.

Challenge militarism

Before delving into the key areas of activism, it is prudent to define militarism as an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression or military inventions for settling disputes and enforcing political and economic interests. Moreover, militarism also privileges certain violent forms of masculinity, which often has grave consequences for the true safety and security of women.

In this light, this year’s 16 Days commemorations firstly zero in on bringing women, peace and human rights movements to challenge militarism in all its forms. This can be done by utilizing international tools such as the Beijing Platform for Action to hold our governments accountable for protecting and respecting the rights of women Secondly, it is imperative that the proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence be challenged during this year’s activism.

The reality of women dying a violent death in a home where there is a fire arm is more real than many of us could imagine. It is therefore important that we begin to acknowledge these realities.

Thirdly, sexual violence during and after conflict is at the centre of the 16 Days in 2011. Rape is often used as a weapon to humiliate and drive fear into women’s lives as wars are fought on their bodies. Although some action has been taken towards dealing with this issue, a lot still needs to be done to ensure the security and safety of women during times of conflict.

Come together

In Zimbabwe today, political violence is an issue that leaves women at the very heart of conflict aftermath. Reflecting on this, it could be useful to begin some sort of activism in line with the fourth issue of this year’s theme. As Zimbabwe is undergoing a constitutional reform process, and is anticipating an election, violence is on the increase.

A close look at trends will inform us that this is likely to increase as the referendum and election draw close. Let us come together and begin to shun political violence as it has a negative impact on women’s lives and discourages them from actively participating in the democratization agenda.

Lastly, this year’s 16 Days commemorations are centred around sexual and gender-based violence committed by state agents, particularly the police and military. As we begin to finalize our plans for 16 Days of Activism against gender based violence, let us not forget how civil society in Zimbabwe has been calling for security sector reforms.

This will enable the creation of a safe and secure environment for women to participate and also live their lives without fear, harassment and intimidation from the various security sectors.

It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the environment in the home and in the community e is such that women can freely live their lives. The above mentioned issues can be a rallying point for you wherever you are, so that we can all come together and ensure that there is peace for women.

Women protest against gender discrimination in Zimbabwe. Women protest against gender discrimination in Zimbabwe.

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