WOMEN’S rights lobby group, Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (Walpe) has expressed concern over the deepening economic and political crisis which it says is taking a toll on women and girls.

In its latest report released on Monday, Walpe said since the elections in July 2018, the country has been on an accelerated descent into the abyss as multiple crises in the political and socio-economic spheres continue to unravel.

“It is women and girls, who are hurting the most from these national crises which have seen a total breakdown in the social contract and all other service sectors which are crucial to the livelihoods and rights of women and girls,” the Walpe report read.

“The political and economic crisis has led to serious human rights abuses. On August 1, 2018, six civilians were shot dead by alleged army officials and one of them was a woman, Silvia Maphosa.”

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Walpe indicated that the January 2019 crackdown was heavy on women and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum recorded 17 cases of rape of women by alleged State security forces during this period.

The organisation said the dire situation was corroborated by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) which noted in its report that there was a “heavy crackdown characterised by indiscriminate and severe beatings”.

“Since January 2019, a number of women human rights defenders, artists and journalists have also been targeted in attacks by alleged State security agents. Key examples are the women leaders who were part of seven human rights activists who were arrested and charged with treason in May 2019 for attending a peace-building and human rights workshop in Maldives,” Walpe reported.

“These are Walpe director, Sitabile Dewa, Femprist director Rita Nyampinga and activist Farirai Gumbonzvanda. An artist with a local comedy outfit (Bustop TV), Samantha “Gonyeti” Kureya was abducted from her home on August 21, 2019 by suspected State agents, tortured and left for dead in a sewer swamp in Harare. Recently, on October 19, a young female journalist, Ruvimbo Muchenje, with a local media company (Alpha Media Holdings) was brutally assaulted by the police in Harare’s central business district, while going to work.”

Walpe said: “Further, there is no action towards the setting up of a body to investigate abuses by State security forces as set out in Section 210 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”

Walpe also added that the health sector weighs heavily on women, some of them dying during child birth or have to care for the sick who are not being treated in hospitals.

The dire water situation in urban areas and power cuts place women in grave danger of rape and sexual harassment while fetching water and firewood, Walpe reported.

“The Zimbabwean crisis bears the face of a woman and we have suffered enough. It’s time there is genuine and inclusive dialogue to provide a soft landing for women. The national inclusive dialogue process must incorporate women in all key decision-making platforms as their voices are important for any way forward and such a process must not be an elite pact,” Walpe said.