7 May 2021
The Africa University Child Rights Research Center together with partners, The Spotlight Initiative and UNICEF Zimbabwe launched the first in a series of symposia with a focus on Sexual Gender Based Violence /Harmful Practices (SGBV/HP) and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) in Africa. The first symposium held under the theme, Conceptualisation and situational analyses of SGBV/HR and Sexual Reproductive Health tackled a range of topics from the failure to report domestic violence among male victims due to stigmatization and stereotypes around masculinity, the profiling of victims of SGBV to reinforce support systems and policies to identity patterns of violence and how to best support victims who are haunted by their trauma after rescue from harmful situations. Speakers drawn from the non- governmental sector, academia and civil society presented their research and findings .
From the 7th of May to the 11th of June 2021, a symposium tackling themes from online harassment, policy and institutional frameworks around SBGV/HP and the determinants of the SGBV/HP shall be hosted every Friday culminating in a round table discussion.
The SGBV/HP and SRHR symposia series is borne out of the collective intention and vision of the partners to bring to the fore new research being done on the continent from the African perspective and add to the growing body of knowledge coming from African researchers that goes into informing critical policies and national legislative frameworks. The overall vision of the Spotlight Initiative in Zimbabwe is that women and girls realize their full potential in a violence-free, gender-responsive and inclusive Zimbabwe.
In her opening remarks , Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Pamela Machakanja who represented the Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Mageto said,
“The importance of this symposia series on Sexual Gender based Violence and Harmful Practices is that it provides a platform for key actors in the response to SGBV/HP and SRHR to meet and engage in strategic conversations and reflections on their roles and responsibilities, with a view to ensuring the full and effective implementation of their mandates. To this end, the symposia series will aid in the formation and deepening of strategic alliances and partnerships.
SGBV is a phenomenon that transcends social, economic, and geographic borders impacting girls , women and indeed men all over the world. It is rooted in power imbalances between the sexes and is fueled by multiple factors including cultural norms, social acceptance of harmful practices, and insufficient legal protections.”
Professor Machakanja went on to highlight the long history that Africa University has enjoyed with UNICEF Zimbabwe in driving transformation and dialogue on pertinent topical issues that affect the lives, dreams and future of Africa’s women and youth especially through the funding of scholarships and programmes through the university’s Child Rights Research Center.
” Our partnership dates back to 2016 when the development of the MSc in Child Rights and Childhood Studies was first mooted. This resulted in UNICEF funding the establishment of the Child Rights Research Centre and the launch of the Post Graduate studies in Child Rights. Today, the Child Rights Research Centre also offers post graduate degrees in child rights the Master of Science and the Doctor of Philosophy in Child Rights and Childhood studies- both of which aim to develop a knowledge base in child rights and social constructions on childhood and family from African perspectives and create a steady flow of national and international experts who are committed to the realisation of the rights of children in the design and implementation of research, policies and programmes. UNICEF has over the years provided funding for scholarships for the MSc in Child Rights and Childhood Studies, and Research Grants for the DPhil Candidates, as well as research funding for which we are immensely grateful”.
Natasha Ryan, Program Specialist (Justice for Children) at UNICEF Zimbabwe delivered remarks on behalf of the organization and The Spotlight Initiative saying,
“Our aim is to prevent violence against women and children from occurring in the first place. UNICEF working through The Spotlight initiative which was launched in September 2017 through a partnership between the European Union and the United nations seeks to end all forms of violence against women and children with a necessity to strengthen women’s empowerment and access to sexual reproductive health services. UNICEF has worked with a range of partners in this area in Zimbabwe specifically in the areas of barriers to the implementation of policies meant to protect women , the chief of these being a lack of coordination. Also of importance is supporting legal and forensic evidence which is critical in prosecuting the perpetrators of SGBV. Online harassment of children and adolescents is also of concern and has been exacerbated by the pandemic that has seen an increase in the number of children online and therefore prey to online predators. We also wish to enhance data and crime statistics generation particularly with regards to violence against men which I am happy to see is one of the topics that shall be discussed here today.”
The CRRC is led by Dr. Tendai Nhenga- Chakarisa who is a human rights, child rights and child protection specialist and educator with more than 14 years practical experience. With research interests in violence against children, child labour, education and legal and policy analysis, Dr. Nhenga – Chakarisa has grown the CRRC from humble beginnings into a powerhouse of research, strategic partnerships and the publication of critical information that feeds into the discourse on child rights , gender and development.
About The Spotlight Initiative
In September 2017, the EU and the UN launched an ambitious joint partnership to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls worldwide. The Spotlight Initiative (SI) aims at mobilising commitment of political leaders and contributing to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Initiative aims at ending all forms of violence against women and girls, targeting those that are most prevalent and contribute to gender inequality across the world. The Spotlight Initiative will deploy targeted, large-scale investments in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Pacific and the Caribbean, aimed at achieving significant improvements in the lives of women and girls. Zimbabwe is one of the eight countries in Africa to benefit from this transformative initiative.