In most spheres of Zimbabwe’s society mention of the term gender triggers mental images of women’s rights activists on a mission to demonize and vilify men and everything they stand for. Within the church fraternity mention of the term gender is likely to trigger images of women who seek to defy biblical doctrine with regards to respecting and honouring their husbands, and being submissive. Unfortunately it is these negative perceptions that make it difficult for any efforts to address gender based conflict, violence and abuse in our society and the church holistically.
When ECLF mooted the idea of tackling GBCVA it was initially with a view to give women in our society and church a voice to speak out against what they viewed as discriminatory, oppressive and abusive practices. However within the consultative and planning process it was abundantly clear to us that any efforts to tackle the issue of GBCVA that included men from the discourse would not yield the kind of sustainable change we hoped to achieve.
It is against this background that ECLF’s gender and peace program is premised on active engagement with both male and female church leaders to challenge long held, socially acceptable and culturally/religiously entrenched stereotypes and beliefs that fuel the prevalence of GBCVA in our society. It is our hope that by bringing men and women together, a shared understanding of GBCVA can be generated and together we can work towards building a church that can be a safe haven for men, women, girls and boys who are victims of GBCVA, a church willing to offer psycho-social and moral support indiscriminate of gender, a church willing to stand and fight for gender justice no matter the resistance it faces, and a church whose mission is not clouded by unjustified stereotypes.
Following a sensitization workshop for female church leaders in Bulawayo metropolitan province, ECLF convened a similar workshop for male church leaders from the same province (see pictures attached).