Sunday, 25 November 2018 marked day one of the 16 days of Activism against GBV along a global commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a day which brings to the forefront the voices of women and girls who have survived violence, those defending women’s rights every day and those who are taking action against gender inequality—many of them very far away from the limelight or media headlines. The commemorations are running under the theme: “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”. The campaign is observed annually between the 25th of November and the 10th of December.
Scores of people from Zimbabwe and the world over are in unity under the hashtags #HearMeToo, #OrangeTheWorld, and #16DaysofActivism raising awareness about the injustices that some women have had to bear across various sectors.
Testimonies are being facilitated on social media platforms to rally all gender and age groups to continue the dialogue and spread the word on the social ill. However, in one unfortunate incident, a female political activist received an avalanche of insults following a post she uploaded on Twitter stating that she too was a rape survivor. This occurred on the first day of the United Nations’ 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV), which was also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Linda Masarira, a political activist shared her story on social media in the hope of encouraging rape survivors to seek professional counselling. “This year I will tell my story,” posted Masarira, on her Twitter account. “It’s not easy to get over rape. When I was 17 I was raped, it shattered my dreams &my plans but it also made me bold &independent to fight for gender justice. If you are a rape survivor get professional counselling.”
1/ This year I will tell my story. Its not easy to get over rape. When I was 17 I was raped, it shattered my dreams &my plans but it also made me bold &independent to fight for gender justice. If you are a rape survivor get professional counselling #orangetheworld #StandToEndRape pic.twitter.com/wIxtQiYvX3
— Linda T. Masarira (@lilomatic) November 25, 2018
What followed Masarira’s post were a series of insults that taunted, vilified, and labelled her as a fabricator statements that somehow proved to be in contradiction with the objectives of the 16 Days of Activism against GBV movement. Some of the replies from to Masarira lacked any sign of sympathy towards the issue that was being discussed.
Masarira’s tweet paved way for other users to daunt her through refuting the statement she had initially posted
One response read: “I hope it’s not one of your attention seeking stance! Linda can go to any length just to get attention.”
I hope it’s not one of your attention seeking stance! Linda can go to any length just to get attention
— Sekuru Tee😜 Gudo vekuDotito (@sekuru_gudo) November 25, 2018
Previously Linda has been labelled as an attention seeker on social media due to her unpopular opinions and inconsistent politics. This led to people questioning her claims of being raped.
Others who dared to comment even turned the matter into an opportunity of demeaning the victim. One responded by outrightly commending the perpetrator for a job well done as he managed to rape Masarira.
Ndinomboda kukuhwira tsitsi…asi ndikangofunga kuti uri (EP) a.k.a Enemy of Progress…ndinobva ndangoti pamberi neakarova stonyeni pauri
— The Utilitarianist (@terrymap1) November 25, 2018
However, there were some who could see through the political fabric
Sometimes we need to put our political differences aside comrades. This matter of violence against women and children is a very sensitive issue. Not all victims are brave enough to tell their stories.
— Tin@$he Mangenah (@tinahmangenah) November 25, 2018
Reading some of the mean, masoginist and insensitive comments on this thread and I keep asking the same thing “what’s wrong with us as Zimbabwean men” #OrangeTheWorld
— ramsay shonge (@ramsayshonge) November 25, 2018
Masarira did not leave her audience hanging as she responded to all tweets including those that sarcastically consoled her.
“I don’t need your sympathy, I dealt with the trauma thirteen years ago and I am just sharing to assist rape survivors to get professional counselling and not to feel sorry for themselves,” Masarira tweeted.
I don't need your sympathy, I dealt with the trauma thirteen years ago and I am just sharing to assist rape survivors to get professional counselling and not to feel sorry for themselves
— Linda T. Masarira (@lilomatic) November 25, 2018
Violence against women should be condemned at all levels and as a people we should be able to move beyond the political, social and economic landscape. The female activist cum political figure being ridiculed for taking part in the movement is now experiencing a case of secondary victimisation.
According to UN Women (2018) the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is calling upon the world to stand in solidarity with survivors, advocates and women’s rights defenders who are working tirelessly to prevent and end violence against women and girls.
This year’s theme aims to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goal SDG 5 aimed at addressing gender equality which is anticipated to be achieved by the year 2030.