16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence: The Half-Seen Pandemic; And Some Few Critical Reflections


HARARE – When the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence (GBV) 2023 commenced, I chose to take a back seat and told myself to simply watch and say less – much against my instincts to be conspicuously vocal. No matter how much my superiors incessantly nagged me to write something about this yearly worldwide campaign, with all its noble intents, my mind launched its own little missiles of protest and said, no, all you have to do is watch how everyone around you is going to take it, say less, and reflect more. Well ... 

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based violence 2023 Zimbabwe
Image: United Nations

It was not all in vain. I must (humbly) say it was a wise move, perhaps; I saw people posting about the campaign the first day, and many posters being designed for a worthy cause. 

But what made me give myself credit for waiting was the important realization that most people only talked about physical abuse when they spoke of GBV, and that is something all change-makers need to worry about and take into consideration with pressing urgency. 

There is a huge yawning gap that we need to fill lest we get lost in its emptiness and mistake it for concrete progress. Suicide deaths continuously surge, and when I reflect on this malaise I see glaring evidence of deep-seated and excruciating emotional distress and abuse. 

Looking at the whole picture, I see an intertwined chain that connects all forms of GBV together, and such intersectionality is the reason why I think it is misplaced to solely address one part of the chain (i.e physical abuse only) and leave the other part(s). 

Take this for instance: A boy gets molested, and goes on to molest his sister, and the sister gets hurt both physically and emotionally; she goes on to bully other kids at school, the bullied babies become scarred for life and they grow up bitter, resentful, and immensely distressed human beings—becoming bitter parents, bitter teachers, bitter public officials, bitter engineers, bitter care worker, bitter priests. And so forth. 

No one is never good enough. Violence begets more violence. Physically, emotionally. 

And ultimately, it becomes this one gigantic crucible of structural violence along the societal fault line of gender – and such structural violence ends up transcending gender. 

We become a disjointed society laden with perennial abuse, violence, and strife. 

Take a clean look at all the forms of GBV and let every one know about them, elucidating how they are inextricably linked many other forms of violence in society, and how they brutally destroy precious parts of someone’s life. Of people's lives. 

No form of violence should be condoned. And it should be understood lucidly that physical violence is the same as mental abuse; and the inverse is true. Focusing on physical violence only as many are inclined to do is a disservice to the noble campaign of the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV

It should always be noted that any form of GBV ultimately gives us a gloomy, disjointed society with no sign of cohesion and solidarity for collective betterment and welfare—succinctly, we have structural, institutionalized violence cutting across social strata: race, class, gender, faith, politics, etc. 

Such institutionalized violence destroys both the individual and collective psyche. We become shackled to unhealthy mental states. 

It is in the mind where every good thought springs and gets nurtured, later growing to be the vision we all see. Everything starts in the mind, and every dream crushed got crushed in there—in the mind. 

GBV is seriously inimical to the health of our mental states. Physical violence along gender lines begets mental violence; mental violence begets more mental violence, and the cycle is perpetuated with more physical violence. This is the pandemic that is half-seen. 

Mental violence – whether from physical beatings or harsh, cruel words – stings. Mental violence destroys the community. And sometimes the significance of mental distress – whatever the source, since all factors intersect – is often glossed over in our noble campaigns. 

How many times have you been beaten by your mom whilst growing up? Of all those times, how much pain do you vividly remember? Now, compare it to the aunt who is always telling you that you can't do it, that you are a failure in life because you are single mother; that you are nothing. 

It is all inseparably connected. 

Think of all those times you cry yourself to sleep because of the words your abuser said to you, not the beating they gave before those words. Taken from another angle, one can heal a broken leg but who heals a broken soul? How much more scars can your inner person hold and how will you heal them? 

Either way, all forms of violence are utterly deplorable. 

As we keep on fighting against GBV as a country, as the world, let us not confine ourselves solely to physical abuse,for there are more crippling types of GBV around us. Importantly, it is an unhealthy state of mind that gives rise to physical violence. 

Unstable, deeply traumatized minds find resort in inflicting violence to others deemed inferior or undeserving; hence the focus is usually on physical GBV. Forgetting that everything in this sorry state of affairs is intertwined. 

So, what is the major point here? 

Know the different types of violence along gender lines, how they are all inextricably connected and part of an entire chain. Spot these forms of violence with clarity and a sense of community in mind, report them, and, one day, we will have a GBV free country—hard as it may be to envisage. Know that mental violence hurts as much as physical violence. 

It is quite strenuous to be exhaustive regarding this contentious subject. 

But in all this, what is demanded from us is deeper, critical introspection from each and every human mind and soul on this planet, with the intention to nurture a healthy society with healthy minds that collectively shovel GBV into antiquity. 16 Days of Activism Against GBV serves as a clarion call to envision and actualize the bigger, panoramic picture; and address it with resolute clarity and will. 

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