Fiona Ruzha, H-Metro Reporter
“I’M strong, but after these four years I can’t take it anymore. I don’t know where to go,” chronicles one Leah Kutemura (28).
Her journey to hell and back began one year into marriage. Leah ignored the advice of friends and family when she got married despite her partner’s anti-social behaviour.
She thought she had found the love of her life, the man she called her “prince”.
Despite being a con dent woman and full of life, Leah has been emotionally abused by her husband.
The glitters were not gold after all.
“It began one year into our marriage.
“John showed interest to marry me and my father told him that I had a mental condition but he agreed to marry me regardless of the ailment.
“In the first year, he was loving and kind. His behaviour just changed.
“When we had a disagreement he would tell me I was crazy that is why I take mental illness tablets. “He plays mind games and twists things I would have said.
“Often our conversations, particularly about money or work, make no sense at all,” she says.
Leah says she once reported him to the police but he never changed despite the reprimands.
“One time it got worse and I reported him to the police and he was cautioned.
“When he came back home the situation eased for some time however he started again and I reported him to my father and he advised me to keep quiet and let it go.
“I have stayed for long because each time I thought I could x things, keeping a constant glimmer of hope that I could keep our family intact.
“And I have lived by the ‘better the devil you know’ motto.” She added “During the previous lockdown, the situation got worse due to economic hardships.
“Every day he saves his anger for me and yells over minor things like leaving a cup on the door.
. “My only hope is to arrange for him a peer support group with social workers and psychiatrists maybe his behaver will change.
“I hope he will change because I love him and for the good of our four-year old son,” she says as tears roll down her cheeks.
Leah’s case is not in isolation as there are more women who are suffering at the hands of abusive men.
According to a research conducted by civil society organisations this year, the country witnessed a spike in cases of domestic violence with several cases of physical and emotional abuse of women during the previous lockdown.
The research reports that physical violence went up by 38.5 percent from April to May while reports of emotional violence went up by 80 percent during the same period.
This is as a result of the country’s economic challenges brought about by Covid-19 which has continued to worsen the plight of women and girls. A lobby group on women’s rights, Buwalo Matilikilo Trust (BMT) director Anna Mandizha-Ncube says there was need to come up with a number of women empowerment programmes.
“We have started engaging women in our programmes as we try to empower them economically through a number of programmes.
“We also incorporate men in the programmes because we believe men also need to be conscientised on such issues,” she says.
Zimbabwe just like many countries in the region has adopted and ratified the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which mandates countries to ensure that perpetrators of gender-based violence are tried by a court of competent jurisdiction.
The protocol in Article 16, 17 and 19 spells out the inclusion of economic power as key in enhancing the voice of women and girls in the wake of GBV.
In pursuit of promoting gender equality, the country established the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, whose specific mandate; among others, includes recommendation of affirmative action programmes to achieve gender equality and monitoring issues concerning gender equality