On International Women’s Day GOAL Zimbabwe gender advisor, Thandolwenkosi Sibindi, reflects on the challenges of COVID-19, and how raising awareness of Gender Based Violence will be a priority in 2021
The team in Zimbabwe had many plans for 2020, in line with our mission to help the most vulnerable communities with whom we work. But we were met with the unexpected challenge of Covid-19.
I remember well the day of the official announcement from the Government of the first lockdown to combat the spread of the virus. It was March 30th and I was at my family home in Bulawayo, about 400km from my work base. From then on everything changed.
My role normally focuses on working with communities on gender issues. This requires face to face interaction. It was challenging to be able to continue this work with the restrictions, and the fear people had of the virus in Zimbabwe.
It was so tough seeing people unable to provide for their families because they had lost their jobs, and to witness how the lockdowns created hostile environments for many women.
Sadly there was an increase in gender based violence (GBV) with many women stuck at home with “monsters”. Combatting gender-based violence became more important than ever.
Unable to meet with communities directly we had to come up with innovative ways to support them on Covid-19 and gender messaging. 2020 really made us think outside the box.
GOAL Zimbabwe launched two ambitious awareness campaigns which reached more than 4 million people. One was a campaign through radio which was supported by Irish Aid.
The second was a unique private sector partnership with advertising company, Promobile, which used a fleet of large mobile vans to bring vital Covid-19 messaging, as well as messaging on GBV and child nutrition, to communities.
Never in my career did I think I would be communicating with people thorough the radio or via vans with loudspeakers.
Unable to meet in large groups, I worked closely with community leaders to spread awareness of GBV. Through the Community-Led Action approach (CLA), I instigated a new “Male Forum” programme.
This initiative provided a safe space for men to talk about GBV, allowing them learn new behaviours and to influence other men how to change and prevent GBV. This forum has seen positive results so far.
I didn’t just want to spread messages of preventing Covid-19 or GBV in 2020. I also wanted to spread a message of hope.
2020 on a personal level
Outside of work, 2020 proved a tough year for me as people I knew died from Covid-19 and I also contracted the virus.
Having Covid-19 made me reflect on my life and my work. It confirmed my desire to be a humanitarian.
With curfews, travel restrictions and working from home, 2020 was a difficult year for the GOAL Zimbabwe team. However, we found new ways to stay in touch and motivate each other.
A highlight was taking up the unique Jerusalema Dance Challenge which swept the continent. We showed off our dance moves and despite being separated across multiple locations in Zimbabwe, we loved coming together through dance.
In my spare time I volunteer at a local orphanage. I work with young people and help them fulfil their potential.
I love being a mentor for young women, showing them how, no matter what, they have a role to play and a contribution to make in the world.
In 2021 I will take time to celebrate important life events like marriages and births. Grounded by my faith, I want 2021 to be a year where we continue to help the most vulnerable in our society, and support them to reach their full potential.