Public Affairs Section
United States Embassy Harare
TRANSCRIPT: U.S. Ambassador visits Musasa Project
March 2nd 2017: Ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8th), the United States ambassador, Harry K. Thomas Jr., visited Musasa to view first hand some of the initiatives that have been undertaken with this government’s support as well as to underscore the importance of ending Gender-Based Violence. Musasa is a non-governmental organization that works toward ending gender-based violence against women and girls in Zimbabwe. It operates from four regional offices which include Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Chiredzi. The United States provided $200,000 to Musasa with the goal to economically and socially empower women and girls who are survivors of Gender Based Violence.
Below is a transcript of the media briefing by U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. and Musasa director.
Netty Musanhu, Musasa Director: …This is our One Stop Center that you have seen where we also have clients. So, we have been getting support from the United States Embassy in terms of the emergency cash for survivors, the microfinance, part of this is part of the microfinance for the women. So, this is just our way of showing the Ambassador what we are doing and the impact of the program and to also give him an opportunity to meet survivors who are currently in the shelter and to see some of the survivors that have benefitted from Musasa.
Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr: Good morning, how are you all. It is a pleasure to be here at Musasa with our team from the United States embassy. As you know, Netty and her team are doing a wonderful job of combatting this global scourge of Gender Based Violence. The United States government is pleased that our grant of over $200,000 is being well spent. Not only have we reached over 8,000 women, we are educating boys and men about the evils of Gender Based Violence. We are hoping this is part of the International Women’s Day campaign, but this is a global challenge that exists in every village, every town in the world. And we all have to work collectively to eliminate this, and to teach boys and men that there is never, never any excuse of hitting a woman. Domestic violence, political violence, gender based violence is human rights violation no matter who does it. So I applaud you for coming and I will ask you all, particularly since there are so many women today, why don’t you help us and become advocates to the end gender based violence. You are reporters, your job is just to report the news, but you are women, you are Zimbabweans, you are mothers, you are sisters; and the fact is that every one of us knows someone who has been affected by gender based violence. So let’s all work together. Please applaud these, as we say, we can’t use the term survivors, we use the term victors, because they are all victorious in overcoming these challenges. Please applaud them but join the fight, join the fight. Thank you so much!
Question: Ambassador, we have read reports that the (U.S. President Donald) Trump administration has been advocating for cuts in funding, we just want to know whether this will affect Zimbabwe and whether this will affect projects that you are working on.
Ambassador Thomas Jr. : Thank you for that. Clearly, we are very proud that the United States government is the largest donor to Zimbabwe, that we are giving a $150 million each year to combat HIV and AIDS, another $150 million to feed 2.1 million food insecure people of the 4.8 million in Zimbabwe, $10 million for democracy and governance; and of course, we are one of the leading, if not the leading, provider of fellowships and scholarships with over 1,300 Zimbabweans studying in the United States. We will have to see what our administration wants to do, but our message to Washington will be-look at performance and results. In Zimbabwe, HIV and AIDS, we have reduced that greatly from 25 per cent to just over 12 per cent prevalence. So it has been effective use of American tax payers’ money. We are humanitarians, and in feeding food insecure people we do that without regard to nationality. We are the world’s oldest democracy, we want to help sustain democracies in every country. And I think every American that we speak to would want us to continue to find ways to help projects like Musasa.
Question: To Musasa, (unclear question on prevalence of gender based violence)
Musanhu: I think what we are seeing now, unfortunately the country has no baseline, so it has been very difficult to measure in terms of whether it is really increasing or decreasing. But what we are seeing from our perspective is that we actually seeing a huge increase in terms of gender based violence because of the economic situation, and roles have shifted in the homes, a lot of men are unemployed and that has brought a lot of strains within households. We also are seeing a lot of rape cases, right now I think the majority of clients within our shelters are rape survivors and they are young girls and we are yet to understand why they have to be between the ages of 10 and 15 years. In terms of gender based violence in the country, it is very gloom. And I think this is couple with very few available and accessible services for survivors. So in some of the areas that we work in, a survivor has to walk, has to travel 200 kilometers to access the police station, otherwise they would be attended by some neighborhood watch. So it’s also very difficult even when we go out, bring awareness and people know what to do, but in terms of available resources and facilities, it is very difficult. So it’s not very good right now. Because for example here at the One Stop Center we attend to an average of 500 individuals each month, and this is just here. If you then take shelters like Marange, Chiredzi where we have issues of early child marriages, the situation is actually dire. We were hoping that government could actually effectively implement the Domestic Violence Act to ensure that women are safe and are protected. And I am sure you are seeing, even the severity of the cases that we are seeing now, even through the media, that the situation is quite bad.
Ambassador Thomas Jr.: Our Self Help Team is here to provide funding throughout Zimbabwe to help people help themselves. Also tomorrow, the United States Human Rights Report will come out and a lot of issues in terms of gender based violence, as well as human trafficking will be covered in that as well. We hope you all can go to the website and take a look at that. Thank you all, see you on International Women’s Day.
Question: You said you are reaching out to Washington with successes, how Zimbabwe can make it easier for you to continue funding “
Ambassador Thomas Jr: Well, we have increased funding every year for the last 15 years under President Bush and President Barack Obama, we have to see where we are going with President Trump. Our message to Zimbabwean government is we support and encourage economic reform, the Lima process, we would hope that will continue. And we also would like to see improvements in human rights and democracy; end to intimidation in terms of voting in urban and rural areas; and violence-free elections coming up in 2018. We saw that President Mugabe congratulated President Trump on his election and he also said ‘give him some time to see what he does.’ So I think that is a good start. It’s a good start. Name calling does not help anymore. Let’s start anew. Ok. Thank you.