Zanzibar seeks to create a social movement to end violence against women and children
The Zanzibar Government has made a bold commitment to end violence against women and children.
Violence is a daily reality for significant numbers of women and children in Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island archipelago that constitutes part of the United Republic of Tanzania. 14 per cent of women in Zanzibar experience physical violence and almost one in ten women experience sexual violence. One in ten males and one in twenty females report experiencing sexual violence in childhood. More than two out of three children experience physical violence before the age of eighteen years.
Violence is rooted in a number of social, economic and cultural factors that impact community, families, relationships and the manner in which women and children experience their daily lives in Zanzibar. In particular gender inequities and a social tolerance of violence make women and children specifically vulnerable to sexual, physical and emotional violence.
A key factor contributing to this vulnerability is a social tolerance of violence against women and children. At least one third of both men and women believe that wife-beating by a husband is justified in certain circumstances. Physical punishment of children in schools is permitted by legislation and often considered by communities as a necessary and positive child rearing practice. Less than half of women and children who experience sexual violence ever tell anyone about it and fewer still seek services. Fear of abandonment and fear of embarrassing family are cited as the main reasons for not reporting sexual violence.
However, there is also an increasing political and public awareness concerning violence against women and children in Zanzibar and a growing coalition of key stakeholders committed to taking action.
Most recently, launching a National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children 2017-2022, on 26 August 2017, the Government of Zanzibar declared that violence against women and children is not inevitable and can be stopped.
Speaking at the launch event, the Minister for Labour, Empowerment, Elders, Youth, Women and Children, Hon. Maudline Castico announced that the New National Plan of Action represents a clear commitment by the Government of Zanzibar to eliminate violence against women and children and outlines the evidence based and costed interventions planned to be implemented over the next five years to address violence against women and children.
The National Plan of Action represents the culmination of a significant political and social movement in recent years towards addressing violence against women and children in Zanzibar. In 2015 Zanzibar received the distinguished Gold Future Policy Award for its Children’s Act 2011 and in 2016 the United Republic of Tanzania was nominated as a Pathfinder Country under the new Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. Key targets to address violence against women and children have been included in the national five year strategy for growth and poverty reduction and a national public awareness has been launched to encourage community mobilization in addressing violence against women and children.
An innovative feature of the new National Plan of Action is that, for the first time in Zanzibar, it promotes an integrated approach to violence against women and children. It recognises the clear intersections that exist between violence against women and violence against children and seeks to establish a national system that can comprehensively prevent and respond to violence against both women and children in a coordinated and complimentary manner.
The National Plan of Action outlines the social and ecological framework in which violence occurs in Zanzibar and adopts a theory of change approach in identifying the causes of violence and the multiple evidence based interventions needed to effectively address violence against women and children.
Critically, the vision for ending violence against women and children in Zanzibar seeks to break the cycle of violence by preventing violence before it occurs. The Zanzibar National Plan of Action places a specific focus on violence prevention and seeks to address root causes in stopping violence. The National Plan of Action recognises that families and communities are often the first and most effective structures in preventing and responding to violence and outlines steps for increased engagement with community and traditional structures in empowering and protecting women and children. The National Plan of Action also specifically targets men and boys as key actors in addressing the gender norms and practices that often underpin violence against women and children.
The new movement to end violence against women and children in Zanzibar is based on the understanding that violence against women and children is everyone’s responsibility and seeks to create a national network of partnerships between a range of government and community stakeholders working together under one shared plan.
As declared by Ms Maniza Zaman, UNICEF Representative to Tanzania, at the launch event: ‘Violence against women and children can be eliminated if the Zanzibar community acts now, acts wisely and acts together. The National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children shows the evidence based ways to do so.’
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF Tanzania and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/tanzania.