Zimbabwe: YWCA employing traditional conflict resolution strategies

Date: January 13, 2012
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The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) is working on a traditional concept – “sharing the snuff” or kusvutisana fodya /ukukhulena umulotha as a way of promoting conflict resolution. Snuff is a local tobacco product and the concept can be translated to mean truth, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation. This concept aims to bring people in conflict to a moment of shaking hands as a sign of truth telling, justice being served and forgiveness.

This is a locally-owned system of conflict resolution used by traditional Zimbabwean societal structures. It requires both parties to the conflict (survivor and perpetrator) taking major role of resolving the conflict in a manner that addresses the mental, emotional and physical damage. It further facilitates reconstruction of relations among the people, which promotes prevention and allows development to take place. Zimbabwe is currently guided politically by the Global Political Agreement, which came about as a result of mediation between political parties in the country. The GPA is a three year agreement and fresh elections are expected to be held two months after its expiry.

In November 2010 YWCA and Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) held a joint Week of Prayer in Harare under the theme: Women Creating a Safe World. It was an opportunity to take the concept of sharing the snuff to communities. The project is targeting the age group of 16-35 years, both male and female, who are perpetrators and victims of violence. Target provinces where YWCA and YMCA already have existing structures include Mashonaland West, Harare, Bulawayo and Manicaland.

This concept is an example of the SADC Gender Protocol @ Work because it brings all people together regardless of sex. In line with Article 28 (Peace-building and conflict resolution), everyone is participating in peace processes therefore ensuring participation for in all activities.

The initiative involves a study on community concepts on conflict resolution passed down from community leaders and cultural tradition. YWCA and YMCA will conduct violence and conflict resolution national profiling and mapping research to establish where the conflict took place and the levels of impact. Some of the challenges include:

  • People may refuse to be reconciled because they find it difficult to forgive those who may have wronged them. The risk of implementing this project is that the situation might turn worse;
  • Political affiliations often increase violence and leave little room for changing of positions on past events;
  • Inadequate resources to carry out activities, for example transport to travel to rural areas where violence was most prevalent.

Key outputs include:

  • The project will help put to rest negative memories of the past and help open a new chapter and hopefully the birth of a non-violent country;
  • Citizens will be working together despite political affiliations, class and sex.
    Key outcomes include:
  • Neutral spaces for mutual sharing, learning and training on peace and integration strategies for the youth, especially young women so they do not live in fear;
  • Zimbabweans get to know their traditional way of truth, justice, forgiveness, healing and integration and are able to initiate peaceful strategies in their communities;
  • Community members become involved and participate actively in community peace processes without fear of stigmatisation;
  • Peaceful committees are established where local people and local leaders can create sustainable environments free from conflict.

YWCA has permanent structures and chapters around the country so the project will continue after implementation. Youth in the country will take up the issues and traditional conflict resolution strategies. This is an initiative that can be replicated in other countries.


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