Last month, a brand new In Their Lifetime (ITL) project was approved – trialling the impact of partnering with faith leaders in tackling gender-based violence in Zimbabwe.
One in three women aged between 18 and 24 in Zimbabwe experiences sexual violence prior to the age of 18*. This statistic alone gives a sense of the magnitude of the problem of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.
Faith leaders and religious institutions
This epidemic is perpetuated, at least in part, by deep seated cultural norms.
It was this that informed the idea to engage and influence one of the country’s key societal contributors – religious institutions – and faith leaders specifically.
80% of men and women in the country claim to belong to a faith organisation.**
Sadly, far from standing up against the issue, churches are perceived as reinforcing negative gender practices and there are increasing reports of sexual and emotional abuse by faith leaders.
This is obviously not universal across churches in Zimbabwe, but there is an opportunity to work with them to more positively use their influence to help tackle the challenge at the roots. The project’s main focus is to achieve this end.
Working with our locally-based gender equality partner, Padare, a number of key steps will be taken.
How the project will be implemented
Initially, the project will target Christian faith leaders within the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), which represent 25 member churches and 900,000 congregants.
Christian Aid and Padare will work with theological colleges, regional ministers’ forums and women's groups within the ZCC, educating on gender equality, including the biblical argument for it.
Rehabilitative work will also be undertaken in prisons with perpetrators of gender-based violence, by counsellors from Padare.
Plans for the future
Based on the success of the initial activities, other faith groups, may be engaged in the project.
The hope is that the project will not only show that theological leaders can begin to change the culture from within their church communities, but that they can influence policy makers on a larger scale, transforming the culture nationally.
*Source: The Zimbabwe National Baseline Survey on Life Experiences of Adolescents Report published in 2011
**Source: Global Peace Index