Anybody who has been in a remote rural area will attest to the difficulties that gender based violence (GBV) survivors especially women and children face in accessing justice.
For most of the survivors, access to justice is simply not there due to several factors such as long distances to service providers, customs, poverty and low awareness levels.
For this reason, Women for Change (WfC) with support from United Nations Development Programme and the Government of Zambia has facilitated the establishment of village-led anti-gender based violence (GBV) “One Stop Shops”.
One Stop Shops are centres where there is a multidisciplinary provision of care for victims: counseling for their psychological well-being, legal advice on what constitutes GBV, collaboration with the Zambian police, and supportive accompaniment during the court process, if victims decide to bring the case to the justice system. So far, eight One Stop Shops have been established in five Provinces.
Women for Change, led by its board member Wendy Mwanza, undertook visits to two chiefdoms in Eastern province to monitor the effectiveness of the initiatives and were pleased to learn that the initiative is exceptionally successful.
At the Misolo anti-GBV One-Stop Shop in Chief Nyampande’s area, WfC found that villagers who have been trained as paralegals and counsellors have been effectively providing legal advice and counselling services to survivors of GBV. This has resulted in two convictions and many reconciliations in their communities. The volunteers are happy to make the contribution to reduce GBV in their villages.
One of such volunteers is Smart Zulu who works at Misolo One Stop Shop as a paralegal; he is proud to serve his community voluntarily. At the time WfC was making the visit, Zulu was attending to a woman who came to seek legal support.
“People really come here and sometimes they bring even matters outside GBV, to encourage people to use the center for GBV, we don’t turn away other clients but we make referrals to ensure that their requests are attended to by relevant and competent service providers,” Zulu said.
Similar sentiments were shared when WfC visited Chief Kalindawalo’s Area. Women for Change was pleased to meet Bertha Nkhoma who fights GBV in her community and uses the bicycle to reach far areas to educate her community about gender inequalities.
She gives legal advice and counselling to survivors at the Kalindawalo Village Anti-GBV One Stop Shop. She is also chairperson of the One Stop Shop.
“WfC Board member Wendy Mwanza commended [Bertha] on working to serve her community without a charge. Her occupation is farming but she makes time to fight GBV in her community, this is very impressive,” Mrs Mwanza said.
Nkhoma revealed to the WfC team that the positive responses from the community for the services she is offering are overwhelming.
Women for Change provides training to communities in a manner that encourages them to find their own solutions to the problems they face.
The initiative includes the involvement of traditional leaders to fight GBV. Therefore, WfC also paid a courtesy call on Senior Chief Kalindawalo, who pledged to assist in establishing a permanent building at which the One Stop Center will be situated. His Royal Highnesses thanked WfC for their efforts while Mrs. Mwanza thanked him for offering one of his buildings to house the One Stop Shop for the time being.