Many women in Harare, Zimbabwe, depend on public transport to meet their mobility needs, and yet, accessing public transport and public spaces comes at great risk of gender-based violence. The violence ranges from leering looks and offensive gestures, to unwanted touching and sexual assault. In 2014, a video of a woman stripped naked at a bus station by a mob of men went viral in Zimbabwe. Women’s organisations lobbied for the police and key policy makers to take action but, in the end, only one of the 10 men involved was arrested. A deep fear of violence on public transport continues to inhibit women in Harare from accessing vital public transport services.
With support from the Intrepid Foundation, this program works with women in Harare to raise awareness of their rights and supports them to amplify their voices on the issues they face when trying to access public transport. The program is facilitating dialogue with women and with minibus operators, drivers, conductors and touts, on how to treat women with dignity and respect and to take issues of women’s safety into consideration when operating transport services. The program is also engaging policy makers and law enforcement to ensure new gender-responsive and protective policies, practices and laws are put in place for the prevention and punishment of violence against women and girls.
Women in Harare are key to driving this program, which will also be implemented by the Passenger Association of Zimbabwe, with pro-bono legal support provided by the Zimbabwe Women’s Lawyer Association.
But the project is just getting started. Long-term, we aim to empower women and girls to know their rights and speak up about their experiences. This project will seek to reduce women and girl’s fear of violence and restricted movement when using public transport, so that they can access a wider spectrum of social, educational, economic and political opportunities.
ActionAid Zimbabwe has already partnered with 10 organisations to form the Safe Cities Campaign Network (SCCN). The Network has run a survey on the safety of women and girls in the city, which was the basis of a report presented to the Mayor of Harare in 2017, together with recommendations to make the city safer for women and girls.