Zambia YMCA advocacy helps reduce gender violence through youth programs

Lillian Banda – WNN Breaking

Participant 'Peer Educator' for the YMCA program for youth in Zambia
Participant ‘Peer Educator’ for the YMCA program for youth in Zambia. Image: YMCA Zambia

(WNN) Lusaka, ZAMBIA, AFRICA: Zambia’s first lady, Dr. Christine Kaseba (also known in Zambia as Mrs. Michael Sata), is calling for stiffer penalties for perpetrators of violence against women and children in the region. Regional advocates say the problem may be centered on violence inside the home.

Zambia Police Services Victim Support unit cases now suggest that an increase in the number of reported cases of violence against women and girls with spouse battery and child abuse is topping the list.

Some sections of society have, however, attributed the increase in the number of reported cases to more widespread and greater public awareness of the problems of violence in Zambian society.

“It is important that we have stiffer penalties so that people think twice before committing such offenses. It will also help us save lives of the vulnerable who are mostly women and children,” asserts Dr. Kaseba.

Meanwhile, as advocates work inside the region to reduce domestic violence, the YMCA in Zambia is working with Zambia’s youth to bring preventive measures to the table as members of Zambian society who can make a difference. The programs are the most cost effective way to deal with violence within Zambian homes, communities and the larger society says the YWCA.

“The YMCA and other NGOs in Zambia provide shelter services and counselling for battered women and are also very active in the organisation of advocacy campaigns and tribunals and in lobbying for legal and policy reform. They have conducted innovative community awareness programmes using drama, song and dance and have involved the media, churches and learning and traditional institutions. They have also conducted research on violence against women and facilitated training in women’s human rights for police and traditional leaders,” outlined the 2003 report on gender based violence by the Commonwealth Secretariat, a partnership of 54 countries who work on issues surrounding society, development and opportunity.

Under a transformative program called “From Subject to Citizen,” the YMCA is conducting a gender sensitization program for Zambian youth that brings a new look at tradition, culture and gender place within Zambian society. The program is working closely with street children to help by “providing meals, medical support, educational support for children, recreation activities and also skills development for the children, guardian and relatives of the children found on the streets.” One of the goals: to reverse patriarchal roles so often adopted by youth.

The program is also encouraging youth to respond when a peer is involved in alcohol and substance abuse. It is also encourages participants to sharpen their skills with conflict resolution.

Finding good mentors is part of the key though, and listening deeply to the struggles of peers is another.

Contact with HIV/AIDS has been an ongoing problem for the healthcare system in Zambia. Women who have suffered under domestic abuse inside the home are often more likely to not get treatment for HIV/AIDS, says the March 2012 Zambia Country Report produced for the United Nations by the National AIDS Council and the Republic of Zambia. But Dr. Kaseba reminds us that, “We’ve seen some positive returns in HIV testing where the men accompany their wives. The number is increasing… …and I’m optimistic.”

“YMCA is advancing preventive approaches because it is costly to deal with effects of violence.  It is for this reason that we saw it prudent to invest in cultural reorientation engagements particularly for the youth because by doing so, we are not only averting GBV but also securing the future. For the older generation, a change of mindset can go a long way in preventing violence in homes and communities. Cultural is a good thing for any society but there are some aspect of it that can be detrimental to the wellbeing of persons and communities hence the need to revisit such,” outlined Jonas Ngulube, the YMCA Zambia programs coordinator recently.

Under the guidance of trained YMCA mentors, the youth meet and discuss issues of GBV – Gender Based Violence along with related subjects that are important to young people in Zambia today. In rural areas, discussions happen through Insakas (Village gatherings) with the help and cooperation of village leaders.

“There has been positive response from communities,” added Jonas Ngulube in his recent update. “We hope to partner with other stakeholders in order to have more coverage,” he added.

In April 2011 Zambia enacted the Gender Based Violence Amendment Act, a bill which brought the issues of domestic abuse and home violence to Zambian advocates and legislators alike. In spite of the growing awareness on the issues, reports in Zambia’s media covering cases of violence against women and children are ongoing and occur regularly.


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