By Wallace Mawire
In the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence period the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Government of Zimbabwe with the support of the European Union has today launched a treatment and support centre for survivors of Gender Based Violence also known as a “One Stop Centre” where services will be provided in one place.
The One Stop Centre is located at Bindura General Hospital in Bindura, Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Central Province, about 100 kilometres outside the capital Harare. It is being launched under the European Union supported Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls.
The European Ambassador, Timo Olkkonen, said on the occasion of the launch:
“One Stop Centres are essential assets in the fight against GBV because they ensure survivor access to all the necessary services in one location, provided by appropriately trained and sensitive personnel. This is very relevant in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud to say that we are playing our part in this fight, through our support to the Spotlight Initiative, and in line with this year’s 16 days campaign theme, ‘Orange the world: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect’. I would like to call upon the Government of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders to dedicate more resources to tackling this scourge.”
The One Stop Centre will provide services such as medical care, counselling, police and legal services all under one roof. The One Stop Centre remains important as it has been reported that often, police stations and hospitals do not provide an appropriate atmosphere to report GBV. In most communities, services are often located in different physical locations thereby inhibiting rather than facilitating timely and efficient responses for survivors.
The One Stop Centre was officially opened by the First Lady of Zimbabwe, Auxilia Mnangagwa who acknowledged that one entity alone can never be able to effectively address Gender Based Violence.
“Gender Based Violence requires multi-sectoral stakeholders to respond with various services that complete the package for GBV essential services. We note that Gender Based Violence is a very traumatic experience which requires specialized services like health services, legal services, Police services and Psycho-Social support including counselling,” she said.
UNFPA Zimbabwe Country Representative, Dr. Esther Muia violence against women and girls has increased since the beginning of March with the COVID-19 crisis creating a “shadow pandemic” of GBV.
“As we are officially opening this One Stop Centre, we are grateful to the European Union Spotlight Initiative for allowing us to expand access to services for survivors, at our time of greatest need as a country. We are very pleased with the partnership that has allowed us to fight this shadow pandemic for the protection of women and girls.”
Gender Based Violence remains a huge problem in the country. According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey for 2015, at least 1 in every 3 women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 while 27% percent of women 15-49 have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.
Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Dr. Sithembiso Nyoni said the One Stop Centre model is one of the promising models for GBV response which has been implemented since 2009.
“The One Stop Centre model effectively demonstrates the multi-sectoral response mechanism to GBV. The concept is aimed at increasing access to comprehensive multi-sectoral response service needs of adult and child survivors of GBV,” Dr. Nyoni said.
“The beauty of the One Stop Centre model is that it facilitates the provision of all these specialized services under one roof thereby affording the victim privacy as well as limiting their exposure to further victimization.”
To date there are five One Stop Centres in Harare, Gweru, Gwanda, Rusape and Chinhoyi, with further plans to expand to other areas. One stop centres were established with the broad aim of strengthening the multi-sectoral response to GBV. Following the successful implementation of the model and lessons learnt from the pilot project in Makoni District, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Small and Medium Enterprises Development in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, has scaled up the model to other provinces.