Project: Supporting women’s access justice through provision of legal services and law reform
Partner: Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA)
Zimbabwe’s customary, traditional practices reinforce women’s lower position within the family and community:
- Women are not equal in marriage and at divorce.
- When a spouse dies many women are likely to lose their property.
The government has passed laws to ensure women’s equality, but often many women do not have the resources to take their matters to court. Court procedures and the attitudes of court officials deter many women from pursuing their cases.
Zimbabwe has agreed to international and regional laws to promote women’s rights but most of them are still to be adopted into national laws.
What Womankind is doing
With funding from Comic Relief, Womankind and ZWLA are working to ensure that :
- women access the justice system
- adequate laws and policies are passed and implemented to guarantee women’s rights.
With our partner we are:
- Providing legal services to more than 7,000 women facing domestic violence, marriage, divorce, inheritance, child support and property disputes every year
- Training 300 court officials on women’s needs and sensitive procedures when supporting them through the court process
- Raising awareness amongst 4,000 community members on violence against women every year
- Monitoring the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act in 5 traditional courts and 5 magistrates courts
- Advocating for the passing of women’s rights laws and policies
What we have achieved so far
- In 2010, 7,055 women received legal aid services enabling them to take their cases to court
- In 2009, the government signed up to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development committing to ensure women’s rights are protected in all spheres of life
“If a woman gets help today, tomorrow if she sees another woman having the same problem, she tells her where to get help.” Ellen Patana, 59, peer educator with ZWLA
“At ZWLA they drafted my divorce papers and represented my case at the High Court. After the divorce, I started advising other women in my community who were experiencing marital problems and domestic violence. I say to them, “You can’t live in these problems, I used to be live like that but I am now free.” I tell the women of the assistance I got from ZWLA and encourage them to seek help there as well.
So I continued assisting other women until ZWLA realised that I was referring a lot of women from my community. So they decided to train me as a peer educator and I have been one for 3 years now. I am more confident to assist women because of the training I received. I was trained on marriage, inheritance and property laws and on how to make a will. I was also trained on business skills so now I am able to generate some money through buying and selling household goods. This helps me to continue with my work in the community and still be able to make a living. I can conduct women’s rights education workshops in my community and even the local magistrates know me. Sometimes they tell women to come to me so that I can refer them to ZWLA.
I have gained a lot personally. I was elected to be the women’s secretary at my local church. … I have decided to go back to school for my Ordinary Level certificate…. I really want to train as a paralegal so that I can assist even more women in my community. As a paralegal I will be able to draft court papers and give legal advice in simple matters.”
“Through ZWLA I now know the law and my rights as a woman and no one can violate them. I have more confidence to deal with my problems. My family see a difference in me. Before I received assistance from ZWLA I used to get so stressed with my problems that I would just sleep and worry but now I can tackle them head on. I have also been referring some of my friends with domestic violence problems to ZWLA – I learnt that ZWLA assists women in many areas of the law.
I would like to thank Womankind supporters and hope that they continue to support us. As Zimbabwean women we will remain committed to fighting the injustices we face, even though the situation is really difficult. There are many women here who still don’t know their rights. But because I feel empowered I would like to pass on the information to other women in my community.”