BY HAMZAH DZIKRI FADLIANSYAH
In 2020, Zambia Police recorded over 5000 cases of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) in the first quarter alone. Approximately 625 of the total cases dealt with child sexual abuse. Moreover, the number has increased about 28% from the previous year, meaning that more and more children and young women continue to suffer from sexual abuse.
Sadly, only 5% of the cases proceeded to the judicial procedure, and many were unreported. This is because of the disappearance of the witnesses, bribery of authorities, lack of knowledge on how to proceed to the judicial system, unwillingness to provide access to the necessary healthcare for the children dealing with child sexual abuse, and family reconciliation without bringing it to the court. Moreover, a recent report from the United Nations also identifies that lack of both gender integration and a children-friendly approach in government services have been allegedly thought of as other reasons why many cases were unreported. This is a serious problem. Suppose the authorities cannot fully accommodate justice for those subject to GBV. In that case, survivors can face negative damage to their psychological and physical well-being throughout their adult life.
Child Rights Eurasia was committed to addressing this problem. We were not alone in this. Through a partnership with the Zambia Society for Child Protection and seed funding from the Swedish Institute Creative Program, we established a project called Let Children and Young Women Be. We aimed to provide a safe space for those who were subject to GBV so that they could communicate their problems anonymously. In this project, we saw that radio was a potential resource to help tackle this issue.
Although we live in the digital era, the internet cannot be accessed easily in some regions of the world due to large gaps in infrastructure development. According to World Bank, only 19% of Zambians had access to the internet in 2019. Instead, Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority reports that 40% of households use radio as a source of information. Thanks to its accessibility, radio can still be reached by people in the region. In addition, Zambians rely heavily on radio services to get information; but, although radio is open for discussion, much information is not openly brought to the public due to taboo and cultural issues. GBV towards children and young women, for example, has been considered taboo and stigmatized in Zambia.
We believed that involving community influencers could encourage prompt and effective support for those subject to GBV, particularly children and young women. We invited law enforcement officers, health practitioners, judicial service officers, community and church leaders, and local radio in Lusaka, Zambia, to a series of capacity-building workshops and seminars. We shared knowledge by providing a gender-mainstreaming approach to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and ensuring every activity in the project includes child-friendly and holistic views.
We expected that those community influencers would gain important knowledge to make a difference in their duties towards the GBV in the community. They were then invited as guest speakers during the on-air radio programs to talk about real-life problems and any information regarding GBV. We did this by collaborating with Radio Yatsani, a radio program affiliated with a church located in Lusaka, Zambia.
Many curious radio listeners showed their interest in the topics discussed by contacting us via telephone during these on-airs. They asked for more information regarding what to do, who to approach, and what should be considered when encountering GBV towards children and young women. For instance, some inquired about their legal rights and how to file a case related to GBV. As a result, the radio listeners could understand how to file a complaint about it after being in touch with us and spreading the information to others.
Many people were enthusiastic and helped support our project in promoting justice for those subject to GBV. In fact, other bodies in Zambia also showed their support to run our project. Don Bosco Youth, a team under the church that we collaborated with in Lusaka, helped us plan and produce videos about the radio programs on YouTube. In addition, Lifeline Childline also voluntarily contributed to the discussion on our radio programs.
It is also worth saying that our project sparked collective action in Zambia. Community influencers formed a committee to organize a 250km GBV towards children and young women awareness walk, called Walk For The Child, in November 2020. They even planned to investigate why the convicted individuals commit GBV, especially towards children and young women. They managed to spread awareness to wider communities by distributing informative materials about the issue. This action resulted in an increasing number of people seeking GBV assistance by 15% since the act was first organized.
Radio acted as a powerful force in actively engaging listeners and ultimately community members around issues surrounding GBV. It yielded voluntarism, eagerness, and a sense of togetherness in the community to actively address the problems faced by children and young women. During the run of this project, we received information that the number of cases being prosecuted and convictions in court increased from the previous year. This was a piece of good news. Hopefully, more and more cases are carried all the way through the legal process providing some semblance of justice to those subject to such violent acts.
Nevertheless, our works are far from reaching a conclusion. There are voices of the survivors, still unheard. They need our help, and we need yours in order to expand our reach on a larger scale. Not only just in Zambia but in other regions as well. They need to know their sexual health and reproductive rights. Help us in our mission “for children to be children.” You can be one of our wonderful volunteers, amazing members, important partners, or valued donors. In addition, you can also contribute to sharing this piece of information so that others will know about our works and help us to spread awareness. We really appreciate your aid in supporting us in similar efforts going forward.
Individuals Using the Internet (% Of Population) - Zambia | Data (Worldbank.Org)
Zicta ICT Survey - 2018.Pdf (Zamstats.Gov.Zm)
Gender Based Violence Statistics 1st Quarter 2020 (Zambiapolice.Gov.Zm)
Zambia: Fighting Gender-Based Violence As Fresh Cases Continue To Emerge | Africa Renewal (UN.Org)