Like many countries there remain damaging gender stereotypes within Zimbabwe that restrict and limit the extent that women can express themselves, both professionally and culturally. Local practices such as ‘lobola’ (bride price) and external pressures such as unemployment and alcoholism, all contribute to a society that is plagued with gender based violence. Basilwizi, our partner organisation, aims to combat these ills and stimulate a society that has gender equality at the heart of everything it does. With this is mind, they played a key role in organising the launch of a campaign promoting ‘16 days of activism against gender based violence’.

As international volunteers we felt it was important that there was a demonstration of solidarity from ourselves, to hopefully show that this isolated community in the North West of Zimbabwe was part of a bigger, global movement that aims to ensure that women play just as integral roles in society as men. Moreover, it was vital that we did it in a way that was engaging and entertaining. We decided that the best way to do this would be through the medium of poetry. Two volunteers penned poems that touched on various issues within the area of domestic violence: alcoholism, isolation both before and after the event, the community response and the role of women in society as a whole. Below are our efforts, delivered to a crowd of attentive men, women and children that had gathered for the launch, mostly from the isolated rural areas most prone to domestic violence.


The dirge of the dispossessed


“I hate you, I hate you, I hate you,” she said.

As she left me, I was seething,

I thought I’d stopped her breathing,

While the children lay there crying, on our once cherished marital bed.


“I’m leaving you for good”, she said.

“For all the tears I’ve shed.”

“You drink too much! You’ve lost your head.”

“You’ll lie alone now on our once cherished marital bed.”


Is this the end? I asked a friend.

He said: “women won’t tolerate violence anymore.”

“The Church is fighting it too.”

“Even the Chief won’t condone violence.”

“The only violent man is you.”


“Can’t you see?” he said.

“There is no place for violence in our community.”

“It only destroys once happy families.”

“We can no longer ignore the voices, of half of humanity.”


And so it seems I’d scared the children.

And my neighbours weren’t impressed.

My own mother would look down on me,

From her eternal place of rest.


Now my friends just laugh at me,

They say I haven’t got a clue.

The kids are getting hungry now,

I’ve never prepared food.


They say that women are the backbone of the nation.

And now I understand why.

It’s been three weeks since she left me.

And I’m not even getting by.


If I had only known the extent to which,

My fists had terrified you.

I really thought the only way to teach you was to beat you.


But now I see that it was wrong,

And the whole District has come out to support you.

And so I say to all the men:


One day your violence will come back to haunt you.


The last drop


I learnt not to answer back years ago, 

to pretend to be asleep as I hear the creak of the stairs

to ignore his drunken breath as it tickles my neck

and not to cry out as his fists rain down. 

I learnt to surrender before he could reach my children, 

Hoping their eyes are blind to my pain. 


I am a victim of domestic violence, I am all alone.


“No more” I scream “no more”.

He’s been drinking again, paranoid I’ve been with other men. 

“Who is he?” he demands

As his fist makes contact: first with my ribs, then my temple.

I remember how things used to be, how he said he loved me.

I black out. 


I am a victim of domestic violence, I am all alone. 


I drink to forget, to forget my failures

No job, no land, no hope

I don’t recall what happened that night, I just remember leaving the bar.

I woke to her body, limp, lifeless on the floor

My hands covered in her blood


I murdered my wife, I am all alone.


Poem 1 by Progressio ICS Group Leader Daniel McLaren.

Poem 2 by Progressio ICS volunteer Liam Smith.

Photo of Progressio ICS volunteers Daniel McLaren, Liam Smith and Imogen Maynard-Smith speaking at the launch of the campaign against gender-based violence.