Social practice and cultural traditions, by sanctioning unequal power relations between men and women, are limiting women's ability to negotiate safer sex or to discuss reproductive health issues with their partners. Women are being denied basic human rights as domestic and gender-based violence is often condoned by cultural leaders.
Recognizing the power of cultural traditions within Zimbabwean society, Oxfam partner, SAfAIDS launched a pilot project on cultural approaches to addressing HIV and women's rights.
The project was implemented in collaboration with Seke Rural Home Based Care (SHRBC). In the first phase of the project, eight cultural dialogue sessions were held (two with women, two with men, two with custodians of culture and two with the entire community).
The Community Dialogue Series, facilitated by SAfAIDS, sensitized custodians of customary law, general policy/law makers and communities to the significant role cultural practices have on women and girls’ ability to realize their rights.
Participants, from the Seke Rural District, deliberated on the key factors and cultural traditions that directly influenced the spread of HIV. The dialogue aimed to foster a culture of cooperation, self-critique and ownership of a process leading to strategies and commitment to social change, through the lens of culture.
After Mbuya Marandu's husband left her for a younger woman, Mbuya returned to a life of subsistence farming in their rural home. Fifteen years later, Mbuya’s husband came back. After becoming aware of her rights through the SAfAIDS training, Mbuya say she will not have sex with her husband unless he has an HIV test or agrees to use a condom.