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Gender Based Violence; nurtured in our homes

A week rarely passed without seeing her face swollen, and her usual explanation to the inquisitive neighbours was that she had bad vision at night and normally ran into dangerous objects within the house.
What a lame excuse it was and the women in the neighbourhood knew exactly what she was going through but none raised a voice. They could hear her scream for help every night, but no one was willing to rescue the woman from the daily punches she received from her husband. It would be termed marriage interference if anyone came to her rescue.
Eventually she let the cat out of the bag after losing all of her front teeth from heavy blows and her beauty was no more. Her face was covered with indelible marks all over.
With hope that the marriage counselors would find a lasting solution to her matrimonial problems, she rushed to seek help, only to be told, “icupo kushipikiska (marriage is about endurance), “a woman should always be submissive to her husband.” They sent her back to her matrimonial home.
Four years later, the woman died of internal bleeding after intense beatings by her ‘beloved’ husband. Silently she was no more with no one to take her husband to task over her death.
This may sound like a grim fairy tale but this is the reality in Zambia today. Gender-based violence continues to be a problem with the number of reported cases on the rise. According to official government figures, one in five women has experienced some form of violence in their lives. Of all the forms of violence, spousal abuse or domestic violence is the highest form of abuse reported.
Most cases have gone unreported because our society is shrouded in a culture of silence. Victims fear stigma and lack socio-economic security. Women have themselves to blame for this continued barbaric trend that has been allowed to freely blossom in our society because they act duplicitously. Women who have left their matrimonial homes are called all sorts of names by fellow women for failing to serve their marriages. Marriage counselors who are mostly women have based their teachings on submissiveness, endurance and secrecy in marriage.
Last month, a public apology by the former Zambia Airforce commander’s wife made sad reading. The woman was forced to publicly apologize for causing a stir when she caught her husband cheating with a young lady despite him threatening to kill her (the wife) in full view of spectators. To serve her marriage the wife apologized through the media and took the blame for the husband’s threats to kill her.
Another sad incident was when the now current defense minister battered his wife. Her relatives reported the matter to the police, only for her to withdraw from the case.
These are women in the limelight who are supposed to publicly condemn violence and take a strong opposition to such acts but their actions are contrary to what is expected of them.
The two incidents are but a few examples of women who have sided with their abusive husbands, although some have made bold decisions to free themselves from such abuse.
Last year the Zambian government enacted the Anti Gender Based Violence Act which calls to enact and enforce legislation prohibiting all forms of GBV; this helps to discourage traditional norms of abuse including social, economic, cultural and political practices, but for this to work the solution lies with women themselves.
If all women stand firm, support each other with strength and bravery, and refrain from name calling when one denounces an abusive man, then no man will raise his hand against a woman.
Let us unite and wipe out gender based violence, it only through unity that this vice can be stamped out, Yes we can.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

usha kc's picture

Dear Sista, yes, violence is

Dear Sista,
yes, violence is nurtured in our home I agree with this . My society also is not different than yours dear.
thank you for your voice over this issue.
love

Stella Paul's picture

Lost my comment

Dear Chinemu

I had posted a comment earlier. Don't know where it went :( Anyway, I was saying that its good to know that Zambia has a legislation against domestic violence. But the law will be useful and successful only when women unite and help it implement. Good job Chinemu!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

malba66's picture

I'll add to Stella's comment

I'll add to Stella's comment by saying that the law will be effective when ALL people begin to help implement it. Certainly, women have to stand for women, as well! combating this kind of violence also requires that we re-program our entire culture(s)/nation(s). DV is certainly an issue in the U.S. where it is most alarming for me; however, is in Puerto Rico (where part of my family is from). The Domestic violence (including murder) rates have risen dramatically, to the point where there is finally a massive popular outcry against Domestic violence and slowly, more changes to legislation.

I think that tackling this issue is definitely about re-defining cultural norms and taboos around gender roles and the expectations associated with marriage, but also addressing endemic violence in the society. Violence begats violence.

What other forms of structural violence contribute to making Domestic violence okay? Media? conflict? constructions of gender (in general)?

We have a long road ahead, but kudos to you for bringing this issue to light in Zambia!

Be well,
mari

Breese's picture

Alarming and saddening...

Alarming and saddening... Thank you for speaking up about this extremely important issue. We're standing with you and supporting you.

Juliette Maughan's picture

Problem all over

My sister,

Only this weekend I read in our local newspaper through a weekly contributor commenting on a situation of violence in a park.

I shall post it to the main board if I find it online.

Basically, in plain view, a man was beating a woman. He was shorter than she was and they were in a public park. Women nearby told her to hit him back she did a few times but he continued. Eventually he walked off and the woman was running behind him. The writer beckoned for her not to do so and to leave him. Then the write spoke to a group of men who were standing nearby to ask why they did not try to stop the man. It was the same, even with a couple of women that just sat and watched. None wanted to get involved in matters between the man and the woman.

I have heard countless stories like that here. Do not be fooled it happens the other way around as well but unless it is really bad the police just put it down to a lover's quarrel in some instances, and where the woman is the perpetrator,they just laugh.

Violence should not be tolerated and this story has an all too common tragic end.

Very good Op-Ed.

J

Chinemu's picture

thanks

Thank you jullete, indeed I wonder why we women keep stuck to abusive men, all in the name of love

piu's picture

An issue of pertinence

This issue of Domestic violence has such a blanket popularity! I say popularity because it is widely practiced all over the world from pole to the pole.It is a practice coming down over the years and it does not pertain to a certain societal set up ,it is more case of male hegemony.in asserting themselves as a superior race.

We have been working with cases in in the interiors of West Bengal (eastern state of India) where domestic violence is rampant for girls who get married underage.Poverty, illiteracy, lack of awareness as well as gender inequality are the reasons behind such practice.
the broader question here remains,how about the cases when it happens in so called well to do families ,educated and well placed in society?
Unless and until women believe and are also made to believe that they are equals,the practice will go on.The confidence has to come from parents, friends,community as a whole.Each has a contribution to make here,either by being vocal and actually stopping the menace or by quietly building up a community supportive net.We need to change perceptions here.Charity begins at home ..they say!

Thanks Chinemu.

Paulina Lawsin's picture

Hi Chinemu.. so sad for the

Hi Chinemu.. so sad for the women who are abused by their "beloved" and it happens all over. And sadder for Zambia and its women and children for having leaders who can get away with abusing their own wives. I like your statement "If all women stand firm, support each other with strength and bravery, and refrain from name calling when one denounces an abusive man, then no man will raise his hand against a woman". You can make this statement stronger and actionable by translating it to slogans addressed to different audiences. To end VAW, we should work in all fronts (and back)...oops am getting carried away...

What am saying is... keep on writing about the issue.. let your voice be heard everywhere in Zambia. But please be very careful. Take care of yourself by not speaking or writing alone. Let your voice be echoed by hundreds of women and men, young and old from different sectors.

Yes, you can!

Hugs from the Philippines,
Paulina

noreens's picture

It's a worldwide problem that

It's a worldwide problem that is not going away. I did some work at a shelter, and I have written a couple of articles about domestic violence. It is amazing what women will put up with for the sake of "love" and their children, and also to go along with the norms of society. Women should not be afraid to leave their abusers; after all they could be saving their own lives. This MUST change.

Noreen

ikirimat's picture

Women should stand up

Women should continue speaking out. I relate this to my village neighbor many years ago, she was battered by her husband almost every day. When we could ask her what was happening the previous night she would say " it was Micheal killing a snake last night" and yet it was her being beaten.

This are the women protecting their marriages by protecting their abusive husbands. Women also feel it is okay for a husband to beat a wife for certain reasons. This kind of attitudes need to change.

Thanks for the enlightening OpEd

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."


vivian's picture

GBV is no doubt a scourge in

GBV is no doubt a scourge in our society. As it is in your country, so it is in mine. WHO reports that millions of women in Africa has been abused. Women will continue to be advocate for their fellow women for change to occur. Culture and religion is really a big threat of achieving this change sine it teaches a women to be silence and endure all conditions in marriage. Christianity call it a cross that the woman would have to carry and continue to pray for her partner to change. But abuse usually get worse instead of better.

Chi, you have picked a topic that is hot and timely. I just concuded my piece on intimate partner violence in nigeria to be sent to a friend for publication. Well done as you proceed in the vOF training.

Vivian

''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Sad Story

Dear Chinemu,

Thank you for sharing this with us. It is a sad day indeed when women are complicit in violence against other women. Our silence helps this circle of violence continue. I have seen this in the US as well. Once, when a man was threatening a woman outside my house, and shoved her, I went running outside to interfere--before I even made it out the door, my roommate (another woman), said "why are you going out there, it's none of our business". This made me sick to my stomach. I ended up scaring the man off and driving the woman home, as her "boyfriend" had thrown away the keys to her car during the attack. We need to teach women to stand up for each other, and for men to respect women.

Keep up the great work,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

mrbeckbeck's picture

Strong piece

Chinemu,

It's tragic to think that a woman would have to accept responsibility for threats against her life. It is a disturbing, heart-breaking reality that GBV is so common around the world. This is a men's issue-- it will be up to men to learn to treat women with respect, express their frustrations non-violently, and generally to behave differently. But, it will take the willingness of everyone to step up and change how men and women interact and understand each other.

A long road, indeed, but by raising this issue like you have here, we can break the silence and get women to speak up. Thanks for your courageous work here.

Best,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Eileen Page's picture

congratulations

Dear Chinemu,
Congratulations on making domestic violence more visible. Your story speaks so deliberately and broadly of the tragic consequences and the pervasive nature of the issue.

As women we can all learn and commit to be more aware as well as support and encourage each other; and we need to be smart about how we do this.

Let's all continue to build the path for better lives for our sisters.

Warmest regards
Eileen

Eileen

bennettml's picture

Thank you

Thank you for the courage to write this story. How amazing it is that you are able to see beyond the cultural teachings and viewpoints of those around you. This is hard to do...and your voice is very important. Your story about the solutions women must understand if things are to change is so very insightful.

Continue in your courage to draw attention to the important issues for women in your country....

MLB

Chinemu's picture

Thanks Sister

thank you sister

Greengirl's picture

I am really touched by your

I am really touched by your story, as it further unveils the stark reality that more, and more women are merely enduring and not enjoying their marriages. I pray the GBV Act will empower women well enough to support themselves. Thank you for sharing.

Olanike Olugboji

Chinemu's picture

We need the support

Thanks Olanike, I equally look forward to a day when GBV act will truely empower the women to live on their own

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