Change and Forgiveness
by Christine Munalula
Elizabeth* is a young widow. At the age of 18, she married a man who abused her, but she misses him now. Before his death, her husband changed. By then, he was educating others about how he changed his behavior and respected his wife.
When Elizabeth was four months pregnant, her husband got angry about the fact that she had a friend visiting and beat her badly with an umbrella. She managed to run to her sister, but her sister was not of any help. So Elizabeth went to the police. She didn’t have money to go anywhere else so she spent the night at the police station.
For the one in three women worldwide who suffer from violence at the hands of the people who are closest to them, getting support is incredibly difficult. For men who perpetrate violence, finding help to change their behavior can be practically impossible. This is true anywhere in the world – and only gets harder in places where health care and legal systems are tenuous and overstretched. So what happened to Elizabeth and her husband? A new system of coordinating response to survivors allowed them to find the help that worked for them, instead of ignoring the problem or treating only the symptoms.
Elizabeth was fortunate. The next morning, a Victim Support Unit police officer trained to be aware of survivors’ needs connected Elizabeth to a Coordinated Response Center (CRC), a one-stop center for gender-based violence (GBV) survivors to access all kinds of services to increase positive outcomes. From 2008-2011, eight CRCs were operated through CARE’s A Safer Zambia (ASAZA) program to prevent and respond to GBV. At the CRC, Elizabeth had one-stop access to comprehensive and survivor-friendly support services, including medical care, legal and psychological support, and security services to minimize the negative after-effects and consequences of GBV and to avoid further harm.
Between January 2005 and September 2011, the CRCs provided services to 18,246 survivors. In partnership with the government and other stakeholders, ASAZA developed a national protocol for multidisciplinary care of GBV survivors in Zambia. Additionally, the project built the capacity of support personnel to provide comprehensive quality services at all centers by training 1,610 community caregivers, 1,093 service providers such as police, health workers and teachers, and 217 paralegals. To learn more about the one-stop model and its legacy, read this case study from CARE Zambia.
For Elizabeth and her husband, the services that worked were medical support and couple’s counseling. Elizabeth was connected to one of the safe houses supported by FAWEZA, a local NGO working to protect women’s rights, where she could find shelter. The police arrested her husband, but gave him permission to attend couple’s counseling sessions. While seeking help, Elizabeth discovered that she was HIV-positive, and with counseling, her husband eventually agreed to get tested. This allowed both of them to get access to treatment and care. With couples’ counseling, support from the CRC and legal advice, Elizabeth’s husband stopped beating her, and stopped drinking.
Elizabeth and her husband decided that change for them was not enough. They wanted to spread the word about how to stop violence in the home, and how to get help if you need it. Before his death, Elizabeth’s husband went on a community radio program and gave a testimony of how he used to abuse his wife, but later changed as a result of couple counseling and legal advice received at the CRC.
Elizabeth thanks the ASAZA CRC for the counseling that helped her husband to change and brought about reconciliation between the two – that gave her an opportunity to spend her husband’s last months with him in peace.
“Though my husband is dead,” she said, “he made peace with me and I will miss the last moments we spent together. It is sad that he became ill at a time when he had changed and l really needed him and enjoyed my marriage.”
ASAZA is one of many programs that CARE implements globally to prevent and respond to GBV. CARE works with local partners to provide comprehensive services to GBV survivors integrated into broader community support systems. This includes working with individuals, couples, communities, and responders to change behavior and attitudes around gender power dynamics and the acceptability of GBV. Read more about CARE’s programs to prevent GBV at www.care.org.
* named changed to protect her identity
Ms. Munalula is a Zambian professional with over 19 years of experience in the management, planning, design, and implementation of gender equality, human rights, corruption prevention, civic education, governance, and advocacy programs in Zambia. She has experience building capacity around gender analysis and mainstreaming, rights based approaches, civic and human rights education and policy analysis. She manages all aspects of CARE Zambia’s gender equality and gender-based violence programs.