Workplace violence against women rife in Zimbabwe

By Nomzamo Gwebu

Women and girls face challenges both in formal and informal sectors of the economy in Zimbabwe. Intimidation, harassment and exploitation are rampant, and early this year, I had first-hand experience of what some women face in their areas of employment.

Early this year I got a job as a Barlady at a drinking spot in the high density suburb of Pelandaba in Bulawayo.

One of my workmates was Mdu, a 40 year old man who worked as a bar assistant. He was around 40 years old. During the first days, we worked well with Mdu although he had serious drinking problems.

After few week into the job, Mdu reported for work drunk. The bar owner was not around. Mdu demanded that I give him money from the cash box since his salary had been delayed. When I tried to explain to him that I was no authorized to give him money, he became violent. I had no option but to give him the money.

When the boss came, I revealed what had happened. The two had a discussion and amicably resolved the problem. However, this was not the end of the problem. One day Mdu had a violent altercation with another patron. He was dismissed from work and I was relieved.

A few days after his dismissal, Mdu came to our workplace and demanded some free beer. He said that he would physically harm me if I refused to give him beer or report to the boss. This happened time and time again. At the end of the month there was a stalk take. There was a shortfall and the boss deducted the shortfall from my salary. It was a big chunk and my salary was reduced to just a few dollars.

This went on month after month. I worked under duress and each time Mdu walked in, I was gripped with fear. He had friends who were also violent looking. They all enjoyed free beer on my account. Each time I would think of reporting, I would recall his violent altercation with the patron at the bar.

One day Mdu was arrested by the police for some crimes committed somewhere. I was relieved to see him handcuffed and being escorted to the police station. I then had some courage to discuss the issue with some female colleagues. That is when I realized that they all had a story to tell about their work experiences. One of my colleagues said her salary was cut after she had refused to be the boss’s girlfriend. That is when I realized that life for women and girls will always be difficult as long as they do not have financial power.

A lot of women are facing challenges in their work place under the hands of men who are in power either as managers or owners or just peers. Sometimes women end up quitting their jobs because of these abusive situations.

Creative Centre for Communication and Development, Zimbabwe