Student forum to tackle gender violence

Students from across the country have resolved to create an active forum to help fight gender-based violence. The resolution was made at the recent National Students’ Conference held at Midlands State University.

Jimmy Wilford, in the checked shirt, poses with students at the conference.
Jimmy Wilford, in the checked shirt, poses with students at the conference.

The conference, with the theme Turning potential into action, was organised by the Students and Youths Working on Reproductive Health Action Team, popularly known as SAYWHAT.

In an interview, SAYWHAT’s executive director Jimmy Wilford said the Mugota/Ixhiba/Young Men’s forum would be made up of male students and would discuss ways of fighting gender-based violence. He added that it was realised that men were central to gender violence, hence the need to come up with a male forum to look at ways of alleviating the problem.

“Part of the objective of the Mugota forum will also be to re-define the young men’s vision in as far as men’s involvement in the sexual and reproductive health discourse is concerned. They will also need to map the way forward and the key strategies they are going to use to achieve the identified aims. Group discussions are therefore critical in this process,” he said.

The idea of forming the Mugota forum was first mooted two years ago at a similar conference of students.

It is against this background that the SAYWHAT director reiterated the need to “walk the talk”. “We want the forum to work and all of us are happy because of the commitment that has also been shown by authorities from various universities who attended the students’ conference. Some of the students are already married and, in a few years’ time, most will be. This, therefore, makes us think that if universities produce graduates who are completely against GBV, the nation will be destined for a better future.

“The graduates will take the messages down to their communities and in the process becomes ambassadors of good will and peace. The Mugota forum will be a milestone achievement for the country,” said Wilford.

A student from MSU, Peter Takwirira, who spoke during the launch of the forum, said men were responsible for most domestic violence cases and so should be at the forefront of fighting against the problem.

“The problem with us men is that we never at any point think of ourselves as victims. We think we are immune to problems. We have wrong perspectives when it comes to masculinity. I feel the Mugota forum will be key in driving out GBV,” he said.

Last year, a study by the ministry of women affairs, gender and community development in conjunction with Gender Links revealed shocking statistics that concluded that at least 68 per cent of women in Zimbabwe had suffered from gender-based violence (GBV) perpetrated by men.

While some activists who fight for women’s rights are calling for stiffer penalties for perpetrators of gender-based violence as a deterrent measure, activists standing up for men’s rights argue domestic violence can only be stopped if more men’s groups discuss ways of weeding it out.

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