BACKGROUND

Following the devastating Cyclone Idai in the Eastern part of the country, there is notable signs of hopelessness and despair in the lives of many people in the affected areas. This is often overlooked as noble efforts are mainly set to donate material goods to affected households. It is this gap that has necessitated “Extending the olive branch - embracing psychosocial support” campaign under Someone Always Listens To You (S.A.L.T Africa) Trust which seeks to alleviate stigma and educate African communities on mental health. The objective is to instill hope and offer a different platform conducive for emotional healing as well as exposing them to opportunities that lie beyond their distressed situation. Extending the olive branch campaign thus looks up to psychosocial support and development projects in the long run that necessitate the reduction in donor dependency for survival. In this regard, needs assessment workshops were held with women from St Charles and from St Johns parish in Chimanimani

This campaign focuses on extending a helping hand to affected areas that’s Ngangu, Kopa and St Charles Lwanga in Chimanimani in form of psychosocial support and sustainable development projects that will bring income for the beneficiaries.

Patriarchy

Patriarchy in Chimanimani plays a pivotal role in determining a lot of issues which include access to education, inheritance issues and gender roles in the community. In their skits the girls brought out the fact that a lot of girls have been deprived the right to education as compared to their counterparts which is a key indication of male dominance. Males therefore stand as decisionmakers in most matters including matters where individual consent is required. In this regard, a lot of the girlchild rights have been violated.

The girls from another group raised issues around inheritance. In the African culture girls are not allowed to inherit assets from their fathers as it is believed that they will then get married and that will be counted as loss to the girl`s family. This has affected a lot of girls in their decision-making as they do not have sources of income for sustainable business ideas hence viewing marriage as lifetime solution to their poverty. This has seen a lot of girls being married off before they reach their age of consent to marriage which according to the Zimbabwean law is 18.

Girl child violations

The recent cyclone IDAI disaster which hit Chimanimani has caused a lot of reparations on the girl child and has left them vulnerable to several violations. During the plays the girls raised the fact that due to the disaster a lot of girls has been pushed into early marriages because their families could not afford food, education and other basic needs. In some instances, some will be stepparents hence sending their stepdaughters into early marriages in exchange of food from well-known old men within their communities. This has then brought about an increase in intergenerational forced marriages in the society. In this regard, girl child abuse has become inevitable as a significant number of teenage girls has found themselves pregnant and not

married due to increased poverty as result of the cyclone. These teen pregnancies have also seen several girls dropping out of school since the policy of back to school for pregnant teens is not well accepted in Chimanimani. Most girls have also testified to being molested by aid givers in exchange of aid that is meant to be for free to the victims hence, intimidation being used to silence victims of sexual abuse. This has escalated teen pregnancies and threats of abortion within the area which is a threat to mental wellbeing as the rate of suicide attempts is increasing in the country.

Donor dependency Syndrome

The cyclone has left the community devasted such that the community is now accustomed to the receiving syndrome. This has affected receptiveness to program that promote self-sustaining projects. Needs assessment in the area proved that the community needs sustainable development projects to start their recovery path considering that another rainy season is approaching. However, they have psychologically adapted to receiving hence the need for a shift in mentality towards recovery.

Stigma and discrimination

Following cyclone IDAI several young people were left orphaned and homeless and makeshift tents were put in place by the government and non-governmental organizations. There are also other homes that were not fully destroyed, and the families have managed to remain in their homes. This has however created a gap in the society as those staying in their homes have started discriminating the girls who stay in tents. This stigma has emotionally affected the victims staying in the camp, hence resulting in them withdrawing from community activities and participation. This calls for psychosocial support to bring unity and rebuilding the spirit of communal ownership and help.