Quest for gender rights rallies NGOs

The fight by various stakeholders for gender equality and equity in southern western parts of the country has been largely fragmented and uncoordinated until the formation of the South Western Region Gender Network (SWRGN) in December 2010.

Chelesile Nyathi: gender does not only mean women.
Chelesile Nyathi: gender does not only mean women.

After realising that individualism was not bringing the desired results, NGOs operating in the south west of the country with a passion to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls came together and formed SWRGN.

“Membership of the network consists of registered and non-profit making organisations operating in Bulawayo, Masvingo, Matabeleland provinces and the Midlands,” explained the coordinator, Chelesile Nyathi.

The network has been actively involved in strengthening institutional development and management of members so that they promote gender equality and empowerment in their development endeavours.

“In order to strengthen the organisations, we need collective voice and action in all gender and empowerment issues. SWRGN has been mobilizing all forms of resources on behalf of the network to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment,” said Nyathi.

The organisation has managed to support sustainable livelihoods projects for economically, physically and verbally abused women.

Member organisations include Souls’ Comfort Trust (SCT), Midlands AIDS Service Organization (MASO) , Maranatha Orphan care , Skills and Technologies Hub Institute (SKITHI) , Community Aid Development Trust (CDAI) and The Haven Trust which shelters abused women and their children.

Gender activist, Nicola Watson, who is also a board member of The Haven Trust, said “Following the formation of SWRGN our programmes in the fight against gender imbalances are now well coordinated and organized .Such network was long overdue.”

Nyathi stressed that her organization also promotes gender equality among men. “The word gender has been deliberately distorted in some quarters to mean women’s issues only. Gender wise, we also respond to men’s constraints and ensure that they enjoy their freedom and human rights,” she said.

The organisation is concerned by the increasing number of men who have become victims of gender-based violence but are not willing to come out in the open for assistance.

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