#StoryOfResistance - Zimbabwe: Empowering women and girls to change their life
"Women should not look down upon themselves because the power to transform everything lies within them.” – Emma 
In Zimbabwe, 43% of women aged over 15 have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence, with intimate partner violence being the most dominant form. The violence is significantly underreported because of women’s lack of awareness about their rights and inadequate support services.
Caroline, a 24-year-old survivor of intimate partner violence, says there is limited knowledge about violence against women, and a belief that:
“Between married couples, there [is] no form of gender-based violence”.
With the support of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) under the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative, the Bethany Project, a non-governmental organization, works to empower and support young women and girls in rural communities to end sexual and gender-based violence.
Its project aims to spread knowledge about gender-based violence across communities, and available specialist support services, so that women and girl survivors and those at risk can receive support to prevent, report and ultimately end gender-based violence.
Since the project began in 2020, it has:
- improved referrals to essential services;
- provided information and services through 4 information centers to 509 community members
- established 25 groups known as Pamumvuri forums that are safe spaces where survivors and those at risk can share their experiences and access information – these have already reached 762 women and girls.
Caroline says these forums are a place where she is heard and believed. She adds:
“This programme has boosted my self-esteem and confidence... I can now sit down with my husband to discuss negative consequences of gender-based violence.”
In addition, the project engages women and girls living with disabilities who face intersecting forms of discrimination and high risks of violence through various community initiatives, including the Pamumvuri forums and door-to-door activities, and provides them with comprehensive sex education. Women and girls living with disabilities represent 20% of the women and girls reached by the project’s activities.
Pamumvuri forum members have started income saving and lending schemes, to support and empower each other. Women are teaching other women how to run small businesses. These are now contributing to household incomes, increasing women’s independence and control over their own life.
Caroline started a small and successful horticultural project in 2021. She now also sells soya chunks and fish, as she realized that the rural community could not afford to buy meat every day. She says:
“My participation in the Pamumvuri Forum programme has made me the empowered person I am today.”
Rebecca Gumbo, Project Director at the Bethany Project, explains how the project helps women realize their full potential and build a more empowered future together:
“Twinning economic empowerment and the fight against sexual and gender-based violence sustains the project and encourages the members to come together.”
#StoryOfResistance is an editorial series during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence 2022 of the UN Trust Fund. The series features the important, lifeline work of women's rights organizations in ending violence against women and girls, in the context of overlapping crises and rising pushbacks from anti-rights and anti-feminist movements.
 Name changed to protect the individual's identity.
 Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT) and UNICEF (2019). Zimbabwe Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019, Snapshots of Key Findings. Harare, Zimbabwe: ZIMSTAT and UNICEF.