It’s Not Just About Women – Addressing Gender Based Violence in Zimbabwe

It might sound strange, but the Women’s Health Team in Zimbabwe have spent the last month training men. Facilitated by men and open only to men, these training sessions are a vital part of the Women’s Health Project which seeks to provide information and change attitudes and behaviour around sexual and reproductive health and gender based violence in rural areas outside Bulawayo.

Discussing sex, reproduction and domestic violence openly is not common in these communities, but it is vital to speak to both men and women about these issues for real change to occur in homes and marriages. The men’s only training is facilitated by both Family Impact staff and representatives from the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development. Importantly, the local Councillors are supportive of the trainings and assist in mobilising men to attend. The trainings are very interactive and topics covered include HIV & AIDS, valuing family, gender based violence (GBV), ‘God made, well made’, positive living and other sexual health and family related issues.

Discussion on the topic of GBV proved particularly lively and there was much debate and discussion from the men around the new Domestic Violence laws in Zimbabwe and how they feel this impacts their family life and roles as men, husbands and fathers. This is not an easy or simple discussion in any community, but the responses from the men who attended the training were positive and it is hoped that through open discussion progress will be made. The recent trainings attracted 226 men, many of who’s wives are involved in the women’s health project, and more sessions are planned in November.

Comments from participants after the training included:

  • There must be no violence between men and women
  • I understood that as men we should be hands on in fighting GBV and create forums to speak out about GBV
  • I understood that GBV stifles/hinders development