Zimbabwe – WOZA Report Examines Suppression of Women’s Political Voices – Human Rights Defenders
Author: Womens UN Report Network
Date: July 22, 2005
Direct Link to WOZA Zimbabwe Report:
DEFENDING WOMEN – DEFENDING THE
RIGHTS OF A NATION
A Preliminary Report on Political
Violence Against Members of
Women of Zimbabwe Arise – WOZA –
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) (2008-03-24)
A Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) Summary of a Report that Looks at the
Suppression of Women’s Political Voices
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) launched a report detailing the political
violence experienced by their members in Harare on Wednesday 19 March 2008 at
an event attended by diplomats, civic society leaders and members of WOZA and
MOZA. The report is entitled “The effects of fighting repression WITH
The report is a result of research conducted by WOZA on what violations its
members have gone through as women human rights defenders and who the
perpetrators of these abuses are. The report was launched to make public the
findings and to urgently draw attention to the risks faced by women activists
as Zimbabwe braces itself for an election. It is intended that those who read
the report will be motivated to take action to remedy the damage done to
millions of people’s lives by a violent dictatorship.
The meeting was chaired by WOZA’s partners, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights,
who vocalised their praise for the detail in the report and for the need for
the women human rights defenders to be respected and for there to be justice
for the abuses. ZLHR Board member and lawyer, Sarudzai Njerere said, ‘the
report is an important tool in documenting what Zimbabweans have experienced’
and that ‘we should all join WOZA in standing up for social justice”.
Prominent activist and WOZA trustee, Mary Ndlovu launched the report by giving
a brief outline of its contents. She highlighted that it encompasses the police
response to peaceful protests by WOZA; that the majority of women interviewed
reported multiple human rights violations; that it is apparent that police
would like to intimidate and deter women from participation and that the police
are in violation of domestic and regional professional codes and are committing
criminal law offences all of which call for punishment although none seems to
be forthcoming due to a breakdown and partial way the justice system now
She went on to point out that the Zimbabwean government officials who give
order to beat or detain the human rights defenders render Zimbabwe in violation
of its own constitution and in breach of obligations under international law.
Two WOZA members also gave testimonies of their experiences at the hands of the
Uniformed Branch and Law and Order department of the ZRP. One woman in the
company of her four-year-old daughter, testified about their arrest and
detention in horrid conditions for three days in 2004, well over the 48hour
detention period permitted under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA). Her
daughter was only three months old at the time and she only had two nappies
with her and had to fight to access water to wash them when they became soiled.
When members of WOZA tried to send disposable nappies in for her baby, police
officers misappropriated them and she never received them. Despite this and
further arrests and beatings, she remains an active member of WOZA.
Another woman testified that she had been abducted from her home in Bulawayo
with her 18-month-old grandchild at 4am by Law and Order officers. They
threatened to kill her by throwing her and the child in a dam. She had also
been seriously beaten across the breasts by police and had to undergo extended
medical treatment. These testimonies are indicative of the experiences of
peaceful activists and reflective of the physical and mental torture they
undergo in fighting for their basic freedoms to be realised.
WOZA National Coordinator, Jenni Williams, outlined the recommendations highlighted
in the report. She also went on to say that in the light of WOZA’s recent
experience in Bulawayo on the 8th March 2008, International Women’s Day, where
over 50 members were brutalised, just weeks before the upcoming 29 March
election, a free and fair climate for elections does not exist.
The report calls on the Zimbabwean government to immediately end violence
against its citizens and on the Zimbabwe Republic Police to honour their
commitment to the Police Act and the SARPCCO Code of Conduct for police
officers. It also calls on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to
support human rights defenders rather than oppressive governments that deny
people their domestically and internationally guaranteed rights and on the
African Union (AU) to isolate representatives of the Zimbabwe government and
any other government that fails to abide by its obligations under international
law to respect human rights.
The international community was also called on to recognize the contribution of
WOZA members as human rights defenders, and assist in the documentation and
publicising of violations so that justice may be served in the future.
A further recommendation is for a Transitional Justice programme. The reports
reads, “We call on Zimbabweans and non-Zimbabweans alike to assist in
putting into place a mechanism which satisfies the wishes of the Zimbabwean
people to see not retribution, but justice, truth and reconciliation, so that
the guilty can do penance and the victims can feel healed of the many wounds
they have suffered at the hands of state agents.”
Whilst the report made mention of the trauma experienced by WOZA women as a
result of their experiences, it was felt that the findings are significant
enough to be released in a separate report due for release soon. What is clear
however is that the women have experienced more trauma in an independent
Zimbabwe than in pre-Independence period.
*To read the full report, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/353bru
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