The United Nations Population Fund Agency has set up a multi-sectoral response centre in the city offering free and fast services to survivors of Gender-Based Violence from across the Midlands.
Coordinated by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and bankrolled by UNFPA, the centre, located at Gweru Provincial Hospital, has become a beacon of hope for scores of desperate women and children.
The attractive Gweru One Stop Centre is well furnished and includes a kitchen, a doctor’s examination room, nurses’ counselling room and legal aid offices, which are staffed by the Zimbabwe Women’s Lawyers who provide free services.
When this reporter arrived at the centre recently, it was a hive of activity with scores of victims receiving medical, psycho-social and legal support to the affected girls and women - all under one roof.
Edna Mukondwei, 34, a GBV survivor, was given to access legal aid from the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers to fight against her estranged husband’s application for downward revision of maintenance fees. She told The Zimbabwean that she had almost lost hope when she parted with her abusive husband - until she got to the centre.
“I was referred here by some of my colleagues who had been assisted in the past. My abusive husband was often violent towards me. I was helped to file for a peace order and maintenance payment.
“When my estranged husband later approached the police and got a document to slash the maintenance fee from $100 to $20, the lawyers at the centre fought from my corner for free and it was reversed. I am proud of the centre,” she said.
Another beneficiary, Miniehle Mazolo, 36, from Lower Gweru, was referred to the centre by Musasa Project, a popular women’s rights pressure group. She was given clinical counselling and moral support after having lived with physical abuse for eight years.
“I used to live a hell of a life. However, all has changed. I am now a happy and free woman, conscious of my rights and no longer afraid of the unknown. That is why I keep visiting the centre and the courts of law to give moral support to people battling circumstances similar to those I went through,” she said.
Midlands community development officer Sithembile Dube said more facilities would soon be available at the centre. “We want the victim friendly court to also be stationed at that site,” she said.
Gender officer Maya Chivi, who has been one of the coordinators for the centre since it started, said violence survivors from as far as Lower Gweru, Shurugwi and Chirumanzu had been helped.
Domestic violence can include physical violence, sexual violence, economic control, psychological assaults like threats, intimidation attacks on property and isolation.
Regional magistrate Morgan Nemadire, who chaired a recent Victim Friendly Unit meeting, applauded the work being done at the centre saying “There is need to inform survivors of gender-based violence and sexual abuse of the services offered by the one stop centre so that people in Midlands province can benefit even more.”