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Gokwe women attempt suicide by domestic violence: call to count the hidden toll of women’s lives

Perseverance Javangwe and Ephraim Munhuwei

It is around midday and Mai Marunya is walking slowly back home accompanied by her sister who carries her bag to assist. She walks slowly to gather the strength to reach her place. She is coming from the hospital where she has been admitted after attempting to end her life by drinking poison.

As we speak with her, words broke up and all she could say were stuttering sounds. She sniffled quietly, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. Her choppy breathing and watery eyes remained for quite some time as she tries by all means to gather the strength to stand and narrate her ordeal. She has been brutally attacked by her husband for a long period of time, and several times she has been forced to sleep in the mango tree close to her place, and sometimes she has to sleep at her niece’s place.

The husband can be violent the whole night, and she has no option but to run away at night. This week she decided that enough is enough, she could not bear it anymore. She had nowhere to report to or go to. Her only way out of this was ending her life.

“We rely on farming as a source of income all our lives, but oftentimes when we harvest our crops, my husband will take everything and sell it. Sometimes I resort to buying, and selling crops then the profit that I get I can buy some livestock. However, my husband will leave me out of the picture saying that he is the only one responsible for all the livestock and that I have nothing to do with that. He claims that I am a woman, and my duties evolve only in the kitchen. I have suffered a lot under him and came to the realisation that I have become old, and there is no reason for me to keep on suffering that is when I decided to commit suicide other than keep struggling the way I am currently doing.

“I have nowhere to go, or any place to visit so I just saw it fit that I should commit suicide than keep on suffering. I have suffered a lot if he comes back from the beer hall. I do not sleep, he is always violent, and sometimes I run away, and sleep at my niece’s places. Other times I climb in the mango tree, and sleep there because he will be violent until sunrise. So these struggles are stressing me out that is why I had to drink poison. Right now I wish that we all gather, my relatives, and his so that we try and see how this issue can be resolved,” she said.

According to her sister Mai Tatenda, raising funds at home has been difficult because the husband claims all the money. She has to ask the neighbors for safe keep so that the husband does not reach out.

“She is a hard-working woman, she buys and sells crops to add to the profits of her harvests. She travels a lot and reaches far places such as Chitekete (Gokwe) selling her produce. She is always raising her funds bit by bit, but she has to keep her money at her neighbor’s place where the husband does not know about it. If he discovers where the money is being kept he will follow, and demand all of it which he then misuses. She has children, who are already married and has grandchildren, but the father is still a problem,” she said.

Speaking in an interview with this publication Sister Flossy from the Women’s’ Coalition Midlands Chapter said there is a need to provide counseling to Mai Marunya.

“…there is a need to take her for counseling so that she can get help from that point. Because if she has reached a point where she wants to commit suicide, then she really needs counseling. So there is a need for us to engage Musasa to see if they can assist her in that area,” she said.

Solomon Makota from the Women’s’ Affairs Gokwe Department told this publication that during their awareness programs, they have also discovered that a lot of GBV cases have been going unreported with women oftentimes contemplating leaving their marriages.

“In the rural areas, a lot of gender-based violence cases have gone unreported. Neighbors can hear the cries of mothers and children as violence unfolds, sometimes to the point of death. To empower women and girls to participate in governance, we are carrying out stakeholder consultations to identify issues of relevance to women and girls experiencing gender-based violence who do not report these crimes. Almost all victims admit that they considered leaving their partners,” he said.

“It is important for traditional leaders to show that they care and are part of the men’s sector to act against gender abuse. Traditional leaders like to hide using culture when perpetrators abuse women and children,” he said.

Gokwe Deputy Mayor Charity Mungwani who is an astounding women’s advocate said GBV is undermining development in communities that surround Gokwe.

“Women play a critical role in sustainable development when they are educated, their families, communities, and countries benefit.  Yet GBV cases in Gokwe are undermining opportunities for women while denying them the ability to fully utilize their basic human rights,” she said.

Gender-Based Violence (GBV) remains one of the most prevalent, and persistent issues facing women, and girls globally. Women survivors of GBV consistently report negative impacts on physical, mental, and reproductive health.

Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse is the commonest form of violence against women. Such is its impact that it is considered to be a serious public health, and human rights problem. Speaking during a community dialogue that was organized by the Community Voices Zimbabwe in Chief Njelele’s area, the women and men who attended the dialogue attributed the causes of GBV to different aspects chief amongst them the lack of respecting each other in marriages.

“Another pressing issue is that when we harvest our crops men will claim everything from the farms, and gardens. They take all the produce and sell it, then they will squander all the money. That is when we as women notice that we are being taken for granted, and that is when we also start confrontations with them,” remarked Mai Simba.

“Nowadays husbands and wives compete amongst themselves because they claim equality, with both parties refusing to acknowledge each other. Women will say they do not want to bow down to men while men will also claim to be the head of the house. That is when conflicts rise because in that situation no one is willing to pay attention to the other.

“Adding to that, oftentimes the way we address each other in marriages is very important because if we do not respond well to each other conflicts will arise. This also results in developing a bad mindset about getting another partner who might be better,” said Remigio.

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