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Harare, Zimbabwe, 5 November 2021 – LOVENESS* (24) from Zvimba, Mashonaland West province, vividly remembers the night her father snuck into her room when she was only 16 and raped her. Even though she got justice eight years later, she says the road has been arduous and treacherous. 

“When my father raped me, I was in form three and I fell pregnant as a result of the assault. He threatened me saying if I told anyone about what had happened, he would kill me. I was afraid, I couldn’t tell anyone,” said Loveness. 

“The morning after the rape encounter, I told my aunt about what had happened to me. She started shouting at me, telling me that if I reported to the police, I would be homeless and destitute. Because of that, I couldn’t make a police report as I had no one on my side.”

Loveness delivered her baby soon after writing her Ordinary Levels. Owing to the complicated nature of her case, it took her long before her father was arrested. This was after her uncle and his wife got to understand what had happened to Loveness and they reported the case to traditional leaders in the area. After gathering facts from Loveness’ story, the traditional leaders summoned her father to their traditional court where he denied the allegations. With the support of traditional leadership, her aunt and uncle,  Loveness went on to report the issue to the police leading to her father’s arrest. Nevertheless, he continued to deny the allegations.

After her father’s arrest, Loveness was moved to a GBV Shelter in Makonde which is being run by Family Aids Caring Trust (FACT) with support from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund under the European Union Spotlight Initiative.

The shelter assisted Loveness in getting a DNA test to prove her child’s paternity which was the key evidence used in the case leading to her father’s conviction and sentencing. In April 2021 , eight years after the abuse had happened, Loveness’ father was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Tapuwa Magwere, the FACT District Progamme Officer said Loveness’  case is a good example that with the right support, a survivor can be assisted to get justice and move on from the abuse, however difficult.

“Loveness arrived at the shelter in June 2020. She was referred from the Ministry of Women Affairs in Zvimba. We admitted her and she received counselling from the Shelter Matrons. We referred her to the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) since the case had some legal components. ZWLA’s support also served to prepare Loveness for court.”

Antony Mukwirimba, the Programme Officer for the Spotlight Initiative for FACT in Makonde District said demand for services is high at the shelter though it only houses 12 survivors at any given time.

“Most  survivors seek help at the shelter after facing all kinds of abuse: physical, sexual, emotional. The shelter works as a place of safety for them as they try to get their lives back on track,” said Mukwirimba.

“In Makonde, FACT is implementing a number of Spotlight Initiative interventions under the pillar for social norms shifting and GBV prevention which complement direct GBV essential service provision efforts. We conduct behavior change communication. Our cadres are conducting community awareness on GBV, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights and also mainstreaming COVID-19 risk mitigation.

FACT works with various partners in the Spotlight initiative. These include the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development  (MWACSMED), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) especially the Victim Friendly Unit (VFU), the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) and other government ministries and departments. 

MWACSMED, Makonde District Development Officer Mrs Fungai Sadzi said they play a coordination role for all GBV programmes, including the Spotlight Initiative.

“We coordinate partner activities. We provide services including GBV case identification and  management. I can say that we work very well with other stakeholders and when we deal with cases, we just flow. We create a web with all the stakeholders and ensure that issues of GBV are addressed timely.”

Even though it has not been easy, Loveness is slowly trying to get her life back on track a day at a time, running a thriving garden project in Zvimba. She intends to venture into other income generating projects that she learnt during her life skills training at the Makonde Shelter.

“I am now doing a gardening project. I have grown vegetables that I am selling in the surrounding community. Even though the market is a bit saturated, I can say the project is doing well and with a bigger market, it can do better. At the shelter, I also learnt how to make washing powder and liquid soap and I now know how to run a chicken hatching project.”

*Not her real name

By Micheal Gwarisa