Gender-based violence, prostitution and child marriage have increased in southern Mozambique as a result of the drought that hit has the region in the past two years, according to a new report.
The study, commissioned by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), found that with more men in affected areas moving to the cities to look for work, there is now an increased burden for mothers and grandmothers to provide for the household. However there has not been a corresponding shift in the authority of women at home and in society, leaving many of them more vulnerable to abandonment, violence and the effects of poverty as they struggle to provide for large families single-handedly.
In households where men have stayed, there has been an increase in domestic violence due as women can no longer meet husbands’ expectations to provide food and water for the home.
The drought means women now spend around 10 to 12 hours a day collecting water, compared to the 2 to 5 hours previously, and has forced them to move away from subsistence farming towards more traditionally masculine labour such as wood harvesting, according to the report. This has put them at risk of increased exposure to conflict and gender based violence as they compete with men over scarce resources, and girls, who are required to help with water collection, are more likely to miss school.
The study, conducted in the districts of Panda and Funhalouro in Inhambane, Chicualacuala and Chigubo in Gaza, and Magude and Moamba in Maputo, showed evidence of young women and girls moving to areas of richer cattle holders, rhino hunters or towards male workers’ compounds and selling sex as a means to access food and financial resources.
As well as compromising women’s exposure to HIV and sexually transmitted illnesses, this has resulted in a higher risk of unwanted and early pregnancies, maternal death and, for young girls, a potential increase in child marriage.
The report recommends that both the international community and the government work to provide emergency sexual and reproductive health services for women in emergencies, and work on campaigns to mitigate gender-based violence. There should also be a focused on gender equity campaigns that “strengthen the socio-cultural role of women in order to allow them more practical effectiveness in providing for the family,” the report suggests.
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