The sixteen days of activism against gender based violence, commemorated on a yearly basis, give quite a deep insight on inequalities that are evident in our world. Gender based violence (GBV) has been in existence since time immemorial and, although it has not been rid of, there have been frantic efforts to address this evil. The effects of GBV are wide and far reaching, from broken families, emotional instability of the perpetrator and the victim, adverse health situations to negative economic impact on a small and large scale.
It remains quite unfortunate that it is the women who bear the larger chunk of the violence brunt. Not to say that the violence should be 50-50, but it must totally never be tolerated. Traditional, religious and patriarchal practices are usually at the center of GBV. It can occur at different facets which include relationships, the community and the society. When the society accepts norms that grant men control over women’s behavior such as allowing violence as a way of conflict resolution and defining the notion of masculinity by domination and aggression – then we give ample room for violence against women. Again, having rigid gender roles sees the culmination of isolation and outright discrimination against women pushing them into the corner of poverty, low socio-economic status and unemployment. Men and young boys have not been spared of gender based violence and, although the percentage of abused males is low, the fact remains that there are men who are abused and the gender construct in our societies forces them not to report such cases thus pushing them further into dark holes.
It is therefore imperative to scale down to the family as a unit to address gender based violence. I am sure it is common knowledge that children learn more by what they see than what they hear, which makes them more inclined to imitate the behavior patterns of adults around them, or worse still be affected by what happens around them.
Needless to say that the absence of one parent in the family set up, witnessing marital violence or being abused as a child ultimately influences the character of a child as he/she grows up. Of course it is not simply the case that if one sees or experiences violence as a child, one will in turn abuse others. However, the family being the first school for any child, should create an enabling environment for their development as a complete compassionate human being.
The first years of a child are very important in shaping their future. Therefore gender based violence is everyone’s responsibility because it starts right in the home through the way children are raised. The future always belongs to the next generation, but they can only imitate what adults around them portray in their faces. I believe that one contribution to ensuring the end of gender based violence can be achieved through raising ladies and gentlemen out of children, the common denominator being mutual respect that cuts across gender roles. Musarega vana vachingokura, nekuti seri kweguva hakuna munamato.