BY Phyllis Mbanje

Economic growth can be enhanced when more effort is channelled towards ensuring gender equality and elimination of gender-based violence (GBV), the first secretary at the Swedish embassy, Angelica Broman, has said.

GBV cases have been on the rise in the country, with stakeholders raising concern over the situation.

Statistics indicate that almost seven in every 10 women experience some form of violence in their lifetime, while one in six pregnant women (17%) is
physically-abused during pregnancy. In most cases, perpetrators are intimate partners.

“The financial cost to the nation of gender-based violence is immense and should not be underestimated,” Broman said.

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Speaking to journalists during an engagement workshop, which was meant to enhance media understanding of government and United Nations engagement in Zimbabwe
on development and humanitarian issues, Broman said GBV impacts on people’s health, the economy and wider society.

There are many forms of GBV which include — but not limited to — physical violence, sexual violence, modern slavery and child marriage.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), more than 40 million people, mostly women, worldwide are victims of modern slavery.

Modern slavery is used as an umbrella term covering practices such as forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking.

Recently, the European Union (EU) and the UN in Zimbabwe, together with the government, launched a spotlight initiative, a US$34 million four-year programme
aimed at eliminating GBV against women and girls.

The spotlight initiative brings focused attention to these issues, making it central to efforts towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in
line with the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Africa will receive €250 million, half of the global amount for eight countries, including Zimbabwe.

The initiative is implemented by six UN agencies in partnership with the Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development ministry and civil
society organisations, and is wholly funded by the EU.

It builds on what the UN agencies are working on in the country. The UN agencies participating are ILO, the United Nations Development Programme, the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, United Nations Populations Fund, United Nations Children’s Fund and UN Women.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday spoke out strongly against GBV while commissioning a clinic and a youth centre in Hopley.

The media have been challenged to report more on cases of GBV.

“The media are in the forefront of sharing, breaking news and are the voice of the voiceless,” Broman said.

Meanwhile, and while also addressing the media, UN resident co-ordinator Bishow Parajuli weighed in on the need for concerted efforts in advancing the inherent
goodness of human values as Zimbabwe strives to turn around the socioe-conomic challenges, climate action, drought and achievement of the sustainable
development goals.

“Engaging with the media is fundamental and partnership with the media is crucial to achieve development. The UN remains open to dialogue with the media and to
feedback on the UN’s delivery and performance,” he said.