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COVID-19 has deepened inequalities: Minister

BY PHYLLIS MBANJE THE impact of COVID-19 has deepened existing inequalities and vulnerabilities particularly for women and girls, with more cases of gender-based violence (GBV) being reported, the Women’s Affairs ministry has said. Speaking at a media briefing to commemorate World Population Day on Friday, Women Affairs, Community and SMEs minister Sithembiso Nyoni said the existing gender and other inequalities have been exacerbated with women and girls facing increased threats of GBV and challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health services. “Economic stressors can increase tensions within intimate relationships and disrupt gender roles; resulting in men failing to fulfil their gender roles as providers, resorting to violence as an outlet,” she said. Nyoni said government still maintained zero tolerance to all forms of violence against women and had demonstrated that by crafting legislation which recognised women’s rights and allowed for perpetrators to be punished. The 2015 Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey confirmed that violence against women was rife and affected all women, regardless of geographic location, wealth or education. At least 35% of women and girls, 15 to 49 years, have experienced some form of GBV at least once in their lifetime, the report said. Findings from the State of the World Population 2020 report showed that all over the world, tens of thousands of girls are, on a daily basis, having their health, rights and futures stolen through the prevalence of GBV and harmful cultural practices. Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has released over $2,5 million to support the government and various implementing partners in provision of quality sexual reproductive health and GBV services during the global COVID-19 pandemic. UNFPA deputy country representative Gulnara Kadrykulova speaking at the media briefing said the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the lives of many people and pushed up incidences of GBV. “Initiatives to end GBV and harmful cultural practices have also been affected. Globally, COVID-19 continues to disrupt efforts to end harmful practices including averting GBV,” Kadrykulova said. UNFPA has identified current challenges within the COVID-19 context and tailored appropriate interventions. The organisation is ensuring GBV services are found among essential services so that survivors can access services during the COVID-19 lockdown. In addition, support has also been provided for scaling up of the mobile one stop centres model for multi-sectorial service delivery. All static and mobile gender- based violence (one stop centres, safe shelters and safe spaces) will be equipped with COVID-19 hygiene supplies and infection control measures There will also be support for escorting survivors to higher level of care, including those with suspicious symptoms to COVID-19-dedicated response health facilities through a shuttle service. UNFPA work in Zimbabwe on ending GBV is supported by the governments of Britain, Ireland, Sweden and the European Union under the Health De

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