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Although acknowledged globally as one of the most pervasive violations of human rights, gender-based violence (GBV) is also one of the least prosecuted crimes. Perpetrators operate with impunity in an environment where entrenched gender and social norms leave many survivors without recourse to justice.  The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar’s National Plan of Action to end Violence against Women and Children (NPA-VAWC), 2017-2022, signifies a commitment to end all forms of violence against women and children.

The United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA) supports the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, through the Ministry of Labour, Empowerment, Elders, Women and Children, to implement the NPA-VAWC.  This includes building the capacity of the police, who are on the frontline of the response to GBV.  On Zanzibar, UNFPA continues to support the renovation of Police Gender and Children’s Desks.

The Gender and Children’s Desks are dedicated units at Police Stations, which play an important role in establishing trust between the police and  women and children, carving out an avenue to justice that didn’t exist before.  To increase the resources available to police to investigate GBV cases and to bring perpetrators to justice, the Ministry of Labour, Empowerment, Elders, Women and Children, with financial support from UNFPA, has purchased equipment for three Desks that includes computers, photocopying machines and office furniture, totalling TZS.22.7 million (approximately $US9,870).

Receiving the equipment on behalf of the Zanzibar Police Commissioner, the Assistant Senior Commissioner of Police Mr. Saleh Mohd Saleh reiterated his gratitude to UNFPA and to the Ministry of Labour, Empowerment, Elderly, Women and Children for recognizing the need to improve the working environment of Police Gender and Children’s Desks in Zanzibar, adding that it will increase efficiency in the investigation and detection of GBV incidents and in improving GBV survivor’s recourse to justice.

The Minister of Labour, Empowerment, Elders, Women and Children, Hon. Maudline Castico, emphasized that GBV is still a major issue in Zanzibar and UNFPA’s continued support to the Ministry and other stakeholders is helping to tackle the problem. She added that the equipment provided to the three Police Gender and Children’s Desks in Fuoni, Wete and Micheweni, Unguja and Pemba,  is part of a major initiative to strengthen the justice-seeking process for GBV survivors in Zanzibar.

In 2018, a total of 942 GBV cases were reported to the Police Gender and Children’s Desks in Zanzibar, a slight decrease from the 1,041 cases reported in 2017.

Ending Violence Against Women and Children is a critical pillar of the Zanzibar Joint Programme that was launched in August 2018 – a development collaboration between the United Nations and the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar.  The programme will be implemented in Unguja and Pemba (main islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago) from 2018-2021.

By Ali Hamad.