WHEN stakeholders in the fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV) met here to evaluate how different interventions have been effective, there was a consensus among participants that the ‘Media Platform to End Gender Based Violence (MPEGBV) project’ has been a success in increasing public awareness in Zanzibar.
The stakeholders included magistrates from conventional and Kadhis Courts, women and children activists, police force, officers from Government Chief Chemist, medical officers and officers from the Ministry responsible for gender had the views that public awareness in regards to GBV is high, but more needs to be done to eliminate or suppress the vice.
MPEGBV, initially a two-year project, started in January 2019 and ended in December 2021, then received a two-year extension from January 2022 to December 2023, covering six districts of Zanzibar, Unguja West A, Unguja West B, Unguja South, Unguja North A in Unguja and Pemba Mkoani and Pemba Wete in Pemba, engaging selected Young Media Fellows (YMFs) for interventions.
The Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA)-Zanzibar has been implementing the project with support from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), while the stakeholders meeting held on September 27 this year to share evaluation report on MPEGBV, was supported by UNESCO and Foundation for Civil Society (FCS).
Ms Zainab Salum Abdalla and Fat-hiya Mussa Said, the project coordinators in Unguja and Pemba respectively, informed the gathering that the assessment of MPEGBV has indicated success of the project in most of the objectives such as increased awareness, accountability among law enforcers and training of young journalists.
They said that 40 YMFs were trained within MPEGBV project: 20 are in Unguja while another 20 are in Pemba Island, and cover stories from all the eleven districts of Zanzibar, “The core role of YMF is to explore, publish media stories and follow-ups on existing gaps in GBV related laws and policies in Zanzibar. They have done commendable work publishing many stories,” she said.
Ms Abdalla and Ms Saidi mentioned areas covered as blue economy, contribution of civil society organisations in molding women leaders and the role of a woman in the education reform at Micheweni, Pemba, keeping an open eye on sexual violence- rape, sodomy, abduction, child maintenance, attempting rape, physical beating, matrimonial and indecent assault.
Although there has been recognised achievement in anti GBV campaign using journalists and media, the report read by Ms Abdalla and Ms saidi highlighted challenges in the road to success as age consent (many children below age of 16 being sexually active) and unfriendly criminal justice system (lack of or limited privacy in hearing process).
Prolonged process in investigation, inadequate continuous counselling to GBV victims, ignorance and irresponsible parenting were other challenges identified in the ‘Media Platform to End GBV project in Zanzibar, as some stakeholders also raised concerns over why GBV cases still remain common in the community.
Mr Mohamed Jabir, a director from the Ministry of Social Development, Elders, Gender and Children said, “TAMWA-Zanzibar plays a commendable role in ensuring women and children have a better life in Zanzibar, and my ministry has stronger relations with the association.”
Ms Rahma Suleiman Ali, one of the beneficiaries of the YMFs, on her part said “The training helped to improve our skills in covering GBV news and also we have knowledge on how to counsel and encourage victims in search for justice, but the main challenges are access to reliable data and Muhali (shyness and hesitation to report perpetrators who happen to be a relative of the victim).”
Ms Siti Faki Ali, a member of the ‘GBV network committee’ at local level said “The battle is not easy, we try to provide advice and encourage members of the community, particularly victims and their relatives to stand firm and testify in Court, even if it is against a parent. Female teens of age 14 to 17 normally refuse to stand against their ‘lovers,’ claiming to be in love.”
She also said that cases are dropped during the process because of costs as some victims are from poor homes and cannot afford transport costs to the Court or hiring a lawyer/advocate.
Dr Sikujua Omar Hamdan, a researcher and lecturer at the Zanzibar University was of the opinion that
parents’ reckless parenting has contributed to increased moral decay among young people, saying most parents provide their children with smart phones without proper guidance on risks on inappropriate use of the devices.
She also raised concern over the data of GBV in Zanzibar, giving the example of the 1222, 1369 and 1086 reported cases in 2021, 2022 and 2023 respectively, saying data system is very important to avoid duplication as she advised having a single law to deal with sexual violence and GBV because currently different bodies such as normal courts and Kadhis court have different laws.
Mr Khatib Mwinyichande, Commissioner in the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) advised activists and judiciary system to also consider male children because they are normally not considered in the anti GBV campaign, while Sheikh Mohamed Ramadhan Khamis from Kadhis Court suggests said “Religious teachings should be compulsory to all children to build belief in their respective religions as it will help to eliminate violence.”
Ms Zuwena Mohamed Abdulkadir on her part said having a juvenile prison or approved schools will help address under age sexual activeness, saying putting them in prison will scare them.
Concluding the meeting, participants recommended to the government and activists that they should look on how to control people through their spiritual beliefs so that they can guide themselves without being constrained by Laws, Policies, Courts, security agencies or guidelines.
They also recommended that statutory rape law should be reviewed because it aggravates crimes made by society, saying there is a need to establish detainee centres for children to control the number of children who abuse their peers. Currently the Children’s Court does not imprison a child, it only gives a warning, a fine or compensation.
Some proposed review of the minimum age of children from the current under 18 years to under 14 years, claiming that normally female teens between 14 and 18 years engage in sexual affairs voluntarily but the law only punish boys.
During the implementation of the project, TAMWA-ZNZ, with the support of ‘Mkono kwa Mkono’ Centre, supported 80 victims (40 in each Island of Pemba and Unguja) with psychotherapy followed by mentoring in 2022.
The TAMWA-Zanzibar board chairperson, Ms Asha Abdi Makame thanked development partners for supporting the MPEGBV project and other related projects which started in 2012 contributing to commendable improvement in reporting and coverage of GBV cases in Zanzibar.