First Lady’s call centre makes giant strides in fighting GBV

THE National Gender-based violence call centre 575 founded by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa remains resolute in cultivating peace through the elimination of factors like drug abuse and lack of communication which fuel violence amongst couples.

This comes at a time the country is commemorating the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual global campaign led by UN Women.

It runs every year from November 25 (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to December 10.

In 2021, Amai Mnangagwa launched a national call centre in her office, providing gender-based violence (GBV) victims and survivors with a solid care package, working with relevant organisations and departments.

Through the helpline, the mother of the nation is playing a significant role in curbing domestic violence.

In addition, she has traversed the length and breadth of the country speaking out against GBV while encouraging victims to report such cases and also utilise the toll free line 575.

The advent of the national gender based violence call centre is part of the First Lady’s solutions-based approach and has helped to reduce domestic violence cases countrywide.

She has been discouraging people from using violence to settle matters, saying all forms of GBV are abominable and must be condemned.

The First Lady at times personally attends to callers, giving them advice and counselling                                                                services.

She also empowers victims with income generating projects so that they become self reliant.

Through the call centre, victims who include women, men and children are swiftly connected to relevant service providers or counselling services as appropriate after analysing the nature of the problem.

Yesterday, the call centre agents who are multilingual, gave a glimpse into their operations in the office that has helped combat the scourge which continues rearing its ugly head in local communities and worldwide.

Ms Locadia Magobeya spoke on the progress made since inception in 2021.

“The call centre started in the year 2021 after the First Lady went around the country and found gender based violence as a serious challenge. Women, children and men went to the First Lady crying over violence which prompted her to set up a call centre in her office.

It is a toll-free number that anyone can call anytime at any place. It offers safe and confidential reporting.

The call centre is manned by people who speak various languages like Shona, English, SiNdebele to assist people from the country’s different ethnic backgrounds.

“Zimbabweans are reaping benefits from the call centre and we want to thank the First Lady for her vision. This is an act of ingenuity and expression of motherly love for human life and we again thank the First Lady for launching the hotline,” she said.

Her colleague, Ms Senzeni Kapanga said the 575 call centre was also meant for reporting cases of child abuse and violence in both rural and urban areas.

“I am among agents in the National Gender-based Violence Call Centre which is in the First Lady’s Office. In view of the 16 days of Activism against Gender-based violence.

“Here we are not only focusing on challenges being faced by women or girls alone, we are also looking at the challenges faced by men and children and the causes of such challenges in both rural and urban areas.

“At the moment, drug and substance abuse have risen significantly, contributing to the surge in violence in the homes. The drugs are also causing family disintegration in instances where both women and men use drugs, leaving children with no one to look after them.

“In some instances, vana mbuya nana sekuru are now faced with the burden of looking after those children. Sometimes these children are subjected to abuse by the community or end up doing jobs that are not suitable for them to earn a living. They are facing many and varied challenges. Some are rushing into marriages before the time is right just to run away from their parents’ continuous fighting.

According to reports we are receiving, men are also taking sex enhancing drugs and when they get home they do not consider their spouses’ capacity to cope. If the woman complains or refuses, she is bashed,” she said.

She added that when people phone the 575 call centre, they incline an ear to their stories and assess the help they will be needing.

“Our centre works with various arms like when we get issues requiring the police, we refer them to the victim friendly unit where they will get assistance. Issues involving children are referred to the department of Social Welfare. We also work with the ministry of women’s affairs to assist women in need so that they get a wherewithal,” she said.

Ms Lisa Muzivi, another agent at the call centre, shared a similar thread.

“We encounter many cases from sexual abuse which we characterise as marital rape and non marital rape.

“We will be talking here about boys and girls in relationships who encounter violence and married couples who argue over conjugal rights which results in violence in the home.

“We also have physical abuse cases. Some couples fight over financial matters resulting in either the man or the woman being physically assaulted. We also have emotional abuse cases which encompass being scolded.

“The victims mainly women say insults are too heavy to bear so these are people who call here saying my husband tongue-lashes me daily and I am contemplating suicide. As a call centre, our mother saw it fit to counsel the parties.

“We urge the nation to report any cases of abuse through the hotline 575 so that they get help. All the reported cases are treated with the urgency they deserve,” she said.

The call centre was set up following reports of escalating cases of gender-based violence (GBV) and the need for instant reporting and support to ensure the safety of the victims.

The cases being handled by the call centre involve men, women and children as victims meaning GBV affects all genders and age groups.


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