A study of battered women seeking shelter at YWCA since its inception in 1993 to 2003
Musukuma, Linah Mpundu
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Wife battering is not a recent phenomenon in Zambia and has been exacerbated by customs and traditions. Wife battering is one of the forms of gender violence that has the potential to destroy women's sense of self.The establishment of battered women's shelter at YWCA presented an opportunity for battered women fleeing from violent marital homes. Women were given an opportunity to access a safe and enabling refuge. The women that went there received counsel and appropriate referral to relevant organizations. The overall objective of the study was to get an insight into wife battering in Lusaka and what role the YWCA has played. The study sought to examine patterns and levels of battery. The study aimed at finding out what services were offered to battered women andliow beneficial they were.The study further investigated whether women stayed in abusive marriages.The study was undertaken between June and July 2004. Data was collected using both the qualitative and quantitative methods and involved interviews for all the 40 respondents and a questionnaire to YWCA staff at DIG and the Shelter.The study revealed that 377 women sought shelter in the period between 1993 and 2003.The study revealed that the shelter was under-utilized partly because the majority of women did not know of its existence and also because women were not keen in reporting cases of wife battery for fear of losing the marriage.The services that are offered at the shelter are temporary accommodation, counselling and provision of basic needs to battered women and their children. The study revealed that only practical needs of women were met whilst at the shelter and no support groups were formed as had been planned. At the beginning of the project women were given skills in baking and knitting however this service could not continue due to erratic funding. The study further revealed that women were not given financial assistance upon discharge from the shelter to enable them settle on their own.The study has also demonstrated that though follow ups on clients was one of the services offered at the shelter it was not consistently carried out due to lack of funds and also due to frequent change of addresses by the clients.The study has also revealed that over half of the battered women remained in abusive marriages for the sake of children and also because they were economically dependent on their husbands. Out of the 40 women under study, 52.5 percent decided to go back to abusive marriages after a short stay at the shelter and only 25 percent set up their own homes while 22.5 percent went to live with their relatives. The study further revealed that there were some changes in the lives and marriages of the women. The women gained self-confidence and some left abusive marriages. Those who went back reported a reduction in the incidences of battery.In conclusion the services offered at the shelter were good services but most of them were not carried out according to their mission. The services did help the women to some extent in that their self-esteem was raised. The services effected changes in some women's abilities and perception of themselves though they were not economically empowered, as they needed self-sustaining skills.