GBV Fast Track Court aids survivors

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UNFPA Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Dr. Julitta Onabanjo (front row, second from left) with visiting UN delegates and the media in a viewing of the modern gender-based violence fast track court in Kabwe, which aims to ensure all GBV cases are concluded within two weeks. © UNFPA

KABWE, Zambia – Southern Africa’s first ever Fast Track Court for tackling cases of gender-based violence has been established in Zambia, to improve delivery of justice in GBV cases. The court has been set up in Kabwe by the Government of Zambia, with support from the UN Joint Programme on Gender-Based Violence (UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF, IOM, ILO) and with funding from the Governments of Sweden and Ireland.

In Zambia, 43 per cent of women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, in the majority of cases from intimate partners, current data indicates.

Since the launch of the court in January 2016, more than 24 cases have been concluded successfully in the shortest possible time.

Survivors of GBV, especially children, generally experience difficulties when testifying in court as they have to they face their abusers, said John Mbuzi, GBV Coordinator for the court. “When a survivor is in our court, they feel free and are able to talk without fear.” This is because in the modernized court, survivors testify using a one-way window as having to face their abusers is usually a highly stressful experience.

"The purpose of the one-way window is that the survivor, who is providing evidence, will not have to make eye contact with the accused person. The people in the gallery are able to follow the proceedings on a 60-inch screen in the courtroom. The court is equipped with secure high-tech equipment that records and stores all the proceedings. This will also enable the presiding magistrate to view the proceedings at a later time,” Mr. Mbuzi said.

The new court was viewed by UNFPA Regional Director for East and Southern Africa Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Ms. Janet Rogantoge, FAO Regional Representative for Africa Bukar Tijani, FAO Senior Economist Suffyan Koroma, UNFPA Zambia Representative Dr. Mary Otieno and FAO Zambia Representative George Okech, during a visit to Kabwe and Kapiri Mposhi Districts of Central Province in Zambia on 26 May. They were participating in the 39th Africa Development Bank 2016 Annual Meeting on Climate Change and Sustainable Energy in Zambia.

The entourage met with the Government’s provincial staff led by the Permanent Secretary of Central Province. Projects visited included the Lukomba Rural Health Centre (see below), a conservation farming project and the Central Province blood bank.

Scaling up RMNCH in rural facilities

At Lukomba Rural Health Centre, the benefits of scaling up integrated Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (RMNCH) services, especially in rural areas, were highlighted. The facility has benefited from ongoing support for upgrading water and electricity supplies, construction of a shelter for mothers, and training for clinic staff and community volunteers.

Located 30 kilometres from Kapiri Mposhi Town and with a catchment population of 9593, the facility has to date trained 50 Safe Motherhood Action Group (SMAG) members. They have contributed to increased skilled deliveries in surrounding villages, quarterly maternal death surveillance and response activities, and the training of two staff members in midwifery and Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (EMONC).

Dr. Onabanjo commended the SMAG members for their commitment to ensuring that women in remote and underserved areas have access to information and services. “You are our heroes on the ground in our collective efforts to reduce preventable maternal deaths,” she said.

The facility has improved key maternal health outcomes: between 2013 and 2015, skilled deliveries increased from 47 per cent to 59 per cent; the number of women making antenatal care (ANC) visits within the first trimester increased from 52 per cent to 68 per cent. In addition, the number of newborns who received postnatal care increased significantly.

With support from the RMNCH project funded by the United Nations, the facility is eager to record a reduction in preventable maternal, neonatal and child deaths; as well as scale up similar interventions in the district, as around 29 per cent (6 out of 21) health facilities in the district are currently supported through the UN in Zambia.

By Precious Zandonda