By Thandeka Matebesi
A Bulawayo based community theatre group, Victory Siyanqoba Trust has come up with an innovative way to help victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV) speak out.
In an interview, VST Executive Director Desire Moyo said Laundry Cafés are Victory Siyanqoba’s biggest idea for community engagement, targeting women and adolescent girls.
“We have indeed done a lot of community programming around GBV issues and laundry cafes have become a safe space, sort of an informal space for women to meet and be able to express themselves as they meaningfully engage away from the executive type of programming. Laundry cafés have been the flagship for VST engagement with women and adolescent girls. We did a lot of laundry cafes with Culture Fund Zimbabwe Trust under the Dreams Project which was supported by JSI and other partners. We took the initiative to Mazoe, Gweru urban and rural as well as in Bulawayo”, said a buoyant Moyo.
“We are proud of this idea that has yielded results and encouraged women to stand up and speak out for themselves. It is a creative, innovative and a very informal platform with very sound results”, added Moyo.
Violence Against Women and Girls During the Covid19 Crisis in Zimbabwe published by Musasa Project, the adult Rape Clinic and the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, reveals that reports of physical violence went up 38.5 percent during April and May while reports of emotional violence went up by 80 percent and are attributed to the heightened household tensions resulting from confined living conditions and increased financial stress.
As a result of the lockdown, the national GBV hotline (Musasa) recorded a total of 4,615 GBV calls from the beginning of the lockdown.
Moyo said that the women only have to bring their buckets, dirty laundry and wash together as they pour out stress and other issues that affect them.
“We have found the laundry cafés to be the most convenient tool for them to open up, share experiences, encourage and advise each other as they do their laundry. We also bring women facilitators who are professionals, for example female legal practitioners to assist women with various issues. Women participate freely within their locality”, he said.
He revealed that during this year’s commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV, VST had partnered with the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) to increase awareness on issues around GBV.
“As far as our engagement with WILD through the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV, just like last year our partnership has been fruitful and productive. We have had women in Cowdray Park, Entumbane and Nkulumane coming in their numbers as prescribed by the World Health Organisation COVID19 restrictions and participating to the maximum. Our contribution has therefore been successful because we were able to get women to participate freely in the laundry cafés. The number of people who attended was beyond our expectations as we sent a message to say we need a restriction of 100 people per laundry café. At some point we were saying 50 because we knew it was going to be a challenge, but we had a maximum attendance at the 3 laundry cafés during the 16 Days of the campaign as many women expressed interest in participating in such platforms”, he said.
Laundry Café is an idea borne out of rural areas. “When I was growing up in Skhobokhobo, our mothers would gather by the river on Thursdays which is a day set aside for other activities other than going to the fields. Women used this particular day to gather by the river telling each other their stories. Laundry Cafés can be taken to the rural and urban areas as long as there is a water source and that is what we have been working on. However, the copyright is with VST therefore if anyone desires to apply this idea they need clearance from us”, said Moyo