WOZA Founder Receives French National Order of Merit

On Friday 25th November 2011 at 4:00 pm, WOZA founder and national coordinator Jenni Williams was awarded the French National Order of Merit at a ceremony at the residence of the French Ambassador, Francois Ponge in Harare.

The award given by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy on recommendation of the French Embassy, to recognise Williams for relentlessly engagement in advocating for democracy and human rights, especially for women in Zimbabwe.

The ceremony was attended by WOZA members, Civic society leaders and invited guests.

Magodonga Mahlangu also spoke at the ceremony and thanked the French Government for acknowledged WOZA founder Jenni Williams.

Acceptance Speech 25 November 2011 Jenni Williams Founder/National Coordinator Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) On occassion of the Government of France National Order of Merit Award

Salutations – I wish to thank you for the for the recognition given to myself and Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA).  WOZA has 80 000 members and over 500 leaders and as I stand here I am humbled. I know that my presence here today is not because of status or cleverness, it is because of the blood, sweat and tears of real people fighting to be respected as citizens of Zimbabwe. And so I salute the members of WOZA who decided enough is enough, signed up and became activists.

WOZA was formed to give voice to ordinary women and to demand social justice for all Zimbabweans. We did not set out to seek recognition beyond that of our own government to respect us as citizens and to recognise our concerns as legitimate. We long for the award of real peace and dignity in Zimbabwe.

When I formed WOZA with late Sheba Dube I never imagined we would grow into the movement that WOZA is today and I could not have done it without the support and sacrifice of my family and comrades, Magodonga Mahlangu and many others.

I pay tribute to their courage, their commitment and determination to see a new Zimbabwe in their lifetime. To be a member of WOZA is to be one amongst many fearlessly brave women and men —- I am proud that they count me as their sister and mother.

In WOZA we believe that it is not too late for the political leadership to return to the promises of the liberation war for respect for one person one vote, equality and a right to an education. Enough blood has been spilt in a violent war for these ideals.

WOZA members fight tirelessly but this time  —-non violently so that we can see, feel and enjoy those promises as daily realities.

The National Order of Merit award you have given me today is recognition that WOZA has empowered thousands of community activists, making them champions for change. The Act- Recruit- Train and Organise model we use enables WOZA to be a strong amplifier of people voices. They understand what they want and know how to demand all their socio-economic, political and cultural rights.  This award will also help to lift the profile of these champions and protect them from abuse and torture and may even save their lives – we thank you for this.  But this award should serve as notice to the perpetrators of violence that France is watching and French citizens want to see genuine peace in Zimbabwe.

We believe that the political temperature in too high and that if something is not done more lives will be lost in the name of elections.

We are worried about the dedicated campaign against Matabeleland, the de-industrialisation and whole scale loss of jobs will surely mean starvation and hardship – this campaign has the look of a modern day Gukurahundi.  I pray this time round the international community will not remain silent.  As we write our new constitution we must careful craft devolution of power and control of natural recourses laws so that locals can genuinely benefit from the wealth they live amongst but very often to do get to enjoy.

As I close my acceptance speech, I wish remind you all that the 16 days Campaign begins today. Recently the Zimbabwe Republic Police reported that 124 women were raped in 11 days. In this harsh economic climate, there is no peace in our homes and women are the punching bag. It is said that sexual harassment is experienced by up to 70 % of women and I am one of the 70%. Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war, and malaria. This year the theme is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women. The time has come for a code RED against rape of women and girls.            I thank you

French Ambassador Speech 25 Nov 2011 National Order of Merit J Williams