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“Traditional leaders remain a key component in the fight against Gender Based Violence, not only because we participate in behaviour change programmes in our communities but mostly because we know the lifestyles of the people and how to positively engage them,” says Rhodes Ncube, ward 20 village head in Mbalabala under Chief Mabhena in Umzingwane, Matebeleland South.

“As custodians of traditional values in communities, we are also tasked with ensuring the safety of the people that we lead, particularly from GBV and other harmful practices. We are promoting equality and doing away with traditional values and customs that infringe on the rights and well-being of our people,” says Martin Mabaleka, ward 2 village head in Umzingwane District, also in the Matebeleland South province.  

Rhodes Ncube and Martin Mabaleka are part of the traditional community leaders that are taking the lead to engage their communities, and are at the forefront in all GBV prevention campaigns that are conducted in their communities.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) under the Spotlight Initiative, a global European Union funded project, is supporting World Vision to implement the community based Social Behaviour Change Communications (SBCC) initiatives to address GBV, Sexual Gender Based Violence, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights.  District multisectoral stakeholders (including community based leaders) were brought together in 2019 and developed the Umzingwane GBV prevention strategy using the co-creation approach. Co-creation is a process that helps communities shape and contexualise responses to problems such as that of GBV. One of the strategies for Umzingwane is that of community leaders taking the lead in sensitizing their communities on GBV as well as addressing any cases by supporting survivors through the GBV referral pathway.

Village heads Rhodes Ncube and Martin Mabaleka along with 25 other community leaders have committed to work with their communities to address GBV.

The community sensitization meetings hosted by leaders are a platform used to share anti-GBV messages, but also to raise awareness on the GBV referral pathways and to encourage timely GBV case reporting. Rudo Tinarwo, World Vision Behaviour Change Coordinator in Matebeleland South says village heads are influential members of the communities who are capable of enforcing the country’s laws and policies.

“In traditional community settings, leaders are part of the referral system as cases are often reported to them. Village heads mediate in varied matters including cases of GBV and those conflicts regarding land tenure and property. They give counsel and caution family members who challenge widows’ access to property and land left by their deceased husbands and other disputes brought to them by married partners,” Rudo says.

“The community leaders have so far received a number of cases that have been referred for different services and some have reached the courts with prosecution of the perpertrators.  Community leaders help to create an enabling environment by encouraging the reporting of cases and openly facilitate referrals of survivors to appropriate services.”

Rhodes Ncube, says World Vision has played a huge role in changing the face of the communities as far as GBV is concerned. Leaders have been educated to identify GBV in communities and to encourage survivors and families to report GBV cases. These sentiments are echoed by Martin Mabaleka who admits that, “we are now able to solve some issues at grassroots level, but where the law needs to take its course we refer to the police.”

According to World Vision, more GBV cases are being reported to service providers. BCFs continue to conduct GBV surveillance within their communities. This is done to identify as well as track GBV cases using a standard form that records types of GBV and the action taken thereafter including referral of survivors for different services. The referred cases end up at the police, health centres and other service providers and service providers in the district have alluded to receiving more GBV cases indicating that people are opening up and reporting GBV

“We are receiving feedback from stakeholders and the Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) that there is definitely a change. VFU has confirmed that they are handling more GBV cases since the leadership sensitization meetings started. Community leaders also confirm being involved in more GBV cases and being asked to support with reporting cases to the police,” Rudo says.

The leadership sensitization meetings are proving to be an effective platform in address GBV under the Spotlight Initiative. World Vision continues to collaborate with various stakeholders in the implementation of the initiative that endeavors to address and reduce GBV cases in Umzingwane District.