(Public Statement 14 December 2022)
As the Zimbabwe electricity shortage situation is worsening in urban areas, Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) is concerned with the high-risk exposure that women and girls are subjected to as they fetch firewood in the bushes that are in the edges of the City and the organization calls on families, men and responsible authorities to prioritize women and girls’ rights protection.
On Tuesday the 13th and Wednesday the 14th of December 2022, MIHR conducted a monitoring visit to Pumula Old and parts of Pumula South suburbs and the organization noted that mostly women and girls are seen emerging from the bushy areas from collecting firewood. This is a major concern especially during this time when crimes of sexual abuse and rape are on the increase.
In view of the above, while as MIHR we are totally opposed to cutting down of trees for firewood because of its negative environmental impacts and subsequent human rights consequences, we therefore call on:
- Women and girls to never go to the bushes to collect firewood alone or in pairs but instead go in groups of atleast four and above and be accompanied by atleast one relative male adult;
- Men and boys to be responsible and assist women and girls in fetching firewood and even accompany them in order to offer protection and safety;
- Parents to be responsible and desist from sending children (especially the girl child) alone to collect firewood as this exposes them
- The Zimbabwe Republic Police to patrol areas that are in the edges of the City as they will soon be potential sexual abuse crime spots due to the high demand for firewood;
- The Bulawayo City Council to be on high alert and monitor the operations of rangers in order to ensure that they do not get involved in gender crimes such as ‘sex-for-firewood’ practices.
- The communities, especially staying on the edges of the City, to have active neighborhood watch committees and work with the Bulawayo City Council Rangers and the Zimbabwe Republic Police to report suspicious persons and activities within the nearby bushes.
The protection and promotion of human rights is a collective effort that needs the individual citizens, their families, the community and the responsible authorities to all play an active role.
Statement issues by:
Mr Khumbulani Maphosa