Good afternoon ladies & gentlemen
I am delighted to be talking to you today to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a cause that is hugely important to me as a woman and as my colleagues have highlighted, the British Government.
As I’m sure many of you are aware, here in Zimbabwe, there is a crucial need to focus our attention on girls and women. Young women are three to six times more likely to be infected with HIV, maternal mortality has doubled since the early 1990s, and women and girls suffer disproportionately from violence, poverty, and lack of control over their economic resources.
Distressingly, 33% of girls in Zimbabwe experience sexual violence before the age of 18, and 64% experience physical violence. As alarming is the fact that 33% of Zimbabwean men and 40% of Zimbabwean women think that husbands are justified in beating their wives under certain circumstances.
These statistics demonstrate how It is essential that we continue to work together to ensure Zimbabwean women have control over their own bodies.
Central to this effort is ensuring that perpetrators are prosecuted and held to account for their crimes, breaking down social norms which deem violence against women to be acceptable, and providing adequate counselling and medical care for victims of this violence.
Globally, my Government is a strong advocate against gender based violence. The UK supported a global Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) Summit held in February this year. This initiative sought to enable survivors to speak out without fear of shame, stigma and victimization and replace a culture of impunity with one of deterrence. I am delighted that Musasa Project’s Nettie Musanhu represented Zimbabwe at this global event.
Here in Zimbabwe, Annabel has already highlighted the great work the DFID programme is doing to tackle this issue. In the past financial year on the British Embassy side, we have supported different initiatives to the value of £70,000 to give women and girls a voice – a voice to say NO to gender based and sexual violence. This work has included capacity building of female Members of Parliament on the formulation of legislation on empowering women & girls, and recognising the important role youth have to play, by running an empowerment programme in rural schools on sexual violence.
We recognise that this is not enough as more needs to be done. In all countries, including Zimbabwe, the political, social and economic empowerment of women is an essential ingredient to tackling this problem.
There are however some positive signs. Zimbabwe’s new constitution gives a firm foundation on which to build women’s empowerment further. I am pleased to see women now comprise 34% of parliamentarians (compared to 16.9% in 2012) and that the new constitution effectively invalidates customary law and practices that discriminate against women.
It is essential that we continue to work together to capitalise on these important constitutional gains. At this point I pass on the baton to three time NAMA nominee - Cynthia Mare. As many of you will agree with me Cynthia is a rising star in Zimbabwe since her return from the UK in 2013 where she was based for over 10 years.
I am delighted that she has chosen music as her medium to raise awareness of problems faced by the girl child. Cynthia will be launching her new song called ‘Moto Ngaubvire’ which means “Keep your fire burning”.