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Centre for GBV survivors launched under the Spotlight Initiative in Bindura 

Bindura, 7 December, 2020 - Dorcas Chimhenyu (39), of Mazowe has been married for close to 10 years. She recalls, she has never experienced abuse at the hands of her husband, until recently, when her husband started physically abusing her.

“It started during the lockdown, he would spend most of his time at home drunk. At first, he would shout at me and eventually he started beating me. I remember on two different occasions – he beat me until I started bleeding from the nose and mouth, and on another day, he threw a rock that hit me on the leg.”

“This abuse was a new thing to me, I knew that I was supposed to report this abuse but I did not know where to go. I ended up not going to the hospital or police because I thought of the hassle of travelling with our baby on my back. I also didn't have transport money and it would have meant borrowing neighbours...in the end I just stayed at home and nursed myself.”   

Challenges faced by women like Dorcas in accessing Gender Based Violence services in different places will be a thing of the past following the launch of the “One Stop Centre” where all services that a GBV survivor requires, including medical care, psychologic support, Police and legal support, will be provided in one place.

The One Stop Centre is located at the General Hospital in Bindura,  in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Central Province, about 100 kilometres outside the capital Harare. It was launched under the European Union Funded Global Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls.

According to Dorcas, the One Stop Centre is indeed a dream come true:

“If all the necessary GBV services are under one roof, it is easier – I can make all efforts to get to the Centre. It also means that we have no reason not to report GBV cases and to seek medical and legal services. The One Stop Centre will be the first port of call.”

The Zimbabwe Republic Police, Victim Friendly Unit officers present at the launch emphasized how the Bindura One Stop Centre is expected to cater for survivors drawn from Mt Darwin, Mazowe, Rushinga, Mbire where most of the sexual abuse cases are reported from.

The European Ambassador, Timo Olkkonen, said on the occasion of the launch:

“One Stop Centres are essential assets in the fight against GBV because they ensure survivor access to all the necessary services in one location, provided by appropriately trained and sensitive personnel. This is very relevant in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic,”

“I am proud to say that we are playing our part in this fight, through our support to the Spotlight Initiative, and in line with this year’s 16 days’ campaign theme, ‘Orange the world: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect’. I would like to call upon the Government of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders to dedicate more resources to tackling this scourge.”

The One Stop Centre will provide services such as medical care, counselling, police and legal services all under one roof. The One Stop Centre remains important as it has been reported that often, police stations and hospitals do not provide an appropriate atmosphere to report GBV. In most communities, services are often located in different physical locations thereby inhibiting rather than facilitating timely and efficient responses for survivors. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the government authorities have restricted movement as a preventive measure in spreading the virus – this, however presents a challenge to survivors who  seek services in different places. The One Stop Centre therefore responds to this challenge as survivors only have to visit the Bindura One Stop Centre for all essential GBV services.  

The One Stop Centre was officially opened by the First Lady of Zimbabwe, Auxilia Mnangagwa who acknowledged that one entity alone can never be able to effectively address Gender Based Violence.

“Gender Based Violence requires multi-sectoral stakeholders to respond with various services that complete the package for GBV essential services. We note that Gender Based Violence is a very traumatic experience which requires specialized services like health services, legal services, police services and psycho-social support including counselling,” she said.

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UNFPA Zimbabwe Country Representative, Dr. Esther Muia highlights that statistics indicate that violence against women and girls has increased since the beginning of March with the COVID-19 crisis creating a “shadow pandemic” of GBV.  

“As we are officially opening this One Stop Centre, we are grateful to the European Union Spotlight Initiative for allowing us to expand access to services for survivors, at our time of greatest need as a country. We are very pleased with the partnership that has allowed us to fight this shadow pandemic for the protection of women and girls.”

Gender Based Violence remains a huge problem in the country. According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey for 2015, at least 1 in every 3 women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 while 27% percent of women 15-49 have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. The continued deteriorating standards of living due to the economy coupled with the COVID-19 induced lockdown which has destroyed most families’ sources of income and livelihood has led to an increase in GBV cases as well as child marriages.  This necessitated the setting up of hotlines where women and girls especially in very remote areas can call in for life-saving GBV services. The hotlines, have since the lockdown recorded a 60% increase in GBV reports.

Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Dr. Sithembiso Nyoni noted that the One Stop Centre model is one of the promising models for GBV response which has been implemented since 2009.

“The One Stop Centre model effectively demonstrates the multi-sectoral response mechanism to GBV. The concept is aimed at increasing access to comprehensive multi-sectoral response service needs of adult and child survivors of GBV,” Dr. Nyoni said.

“The beauty of the One Stop Centre model is that it facilitates the provision of all these specialized services under one roof thereby affording the victim privacy as well as limiting their exposure to further victimization.”

To date there are six One Stop Centres in Bindura, Chinhoyi, Gwanda, Gweru, Harare and Rusape with further plans to expand to other areas. One stop centres were established with the broad aim of strengthening the multi-sectoral response to GBV. Following the successful implementation of the model and lessons learnt from the pilot project in Makoni District, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Small and Medium Enterprises Development in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, has scaled up the model to other provinces.

Originally published by Spotlight Initiative