WOZA MOYA November 2006

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines violence against women as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, force or denial of freedom, whether happening in public or in private life.’

Women of Zimbabwe Arise and Men of Zimbabwe Arise invite all Zimbabweans to join in this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, from 25 November to 10 December. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international movement, which began in 1991. The dates 25 November (International Day Against Violence Against Women) and 10 December (International Human Rights Day) were chosen in order to link violence against women and human rights and to show that such violence is an abuse of human rights.

This year, Zimbabwe will join the rest of the world in recognising 29 November, which is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. OUR SPECIAL DAY!

It is a step forward to have the promises of the Domestic Violence Bill delivered and put an end to state-sponsored violence so that we can concentrate on rebuilding our country and saving lives…

edical News Today reports: “The life expectancy for women in Zimbabwe is 34 years, the lowest in the world, according to the World Health Organization‘s World Health Report 2006. Men in Zimbabwe have a life expectancy of 37, according to the report.”

Gender Violence in Zimbabwe
Women form 56% of the population in Zimbabwe and usually it is the mother who must provide food despite the tight budget. We women bear the burden of the economic hardship. A government official said recently that 60 per cent of all murders in Zimbabwe were a result of domestic violence, with the majority of them being women.

The campaign also comes after the passing of the Domestic Violence Bill in Zimbabwe. The Bill makes domestic violence a crime and covers areas like economic and mental abuse, threats and pestering. Cultural practices that shame women, such virginity testing, female genital damage, wife inheritance and the custom of offering young girls as payment in disputes between families, will become illegal.

Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS
According to international studies, violence against women, especially forced sex, increases women’s exposure to HIV infection. Violence and fear of violence limits a woman’s ability to discuss safe sexual behaviour, even in agreement. Women who are infected with HIV, or who are suspected to be infected, may also face violence and/or dumped. Fear of violence and shame can discourage women from seeking information on HIV/AIDS, getting tested for HIV, disclosing their HIV status and seeking treatment and counselling. Since violence can affect women’s willingness to be tested, it can also have a negative result on larger HIV control, treatment and prevention programmes.

There are three kinds of violence, including state-sponsored violence, that are causing Zimbabweans to die young: Violence of the FIST, Violence of the TONGUE and Violence of the HEART.

Help us to expose this violence and hold those who practice it accountable.

Advancing Human Rights
When WOZA was formed in 2003, the founders recognised that it is mothers who have to find a way to feed their children or to raise the morale in the home so that the family can be peaceful and happy. So they mobilised and prepared each other for the burden of state-sponsored violence and continue to demonstrate against the shortage of basic foods, as well as poor governance and our children’s right to education. Instead of addressing our issues, the government of Zimbabwe arrests us, beats us up and harasses us. All the defenders of WOZA and MOZA require are to fully exercise their right to Freedom of Expression, to Criticise, to Protest and to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly.

The majority of Zimbabweans fought the liberation war for equality and freedom of expression. Now state newspapers, television and radio are only for the tongues of the politically correct. While we know that there is a need for such a law as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), it is the selective application of the law that we object to. Where are the Daily News, The Tribune and other independent newspapers? Why is Radio Africa and Studio 7 jammed? Even Smith did not stoop so low as to jam Radio Chokwadi/Qiniso, broadcast from Mozambique during the liberation war. What is wrong with our views now – why can we not also hear Radio Africa and Studio 7? We demand our freedom of expression and we chose to bang pots at 8pm on purpose – to ‘jam’ propaganda news of this regime that does not want us to hear the truth.

Advancing – despite the risks
Although the Domestic Violence Bill could bring some relief to the many beaten and abused women and men, WOZA, as women human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, do not have much protection outside their homes. Harsh laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act continue to hound them. The passing of these unjust laws, even though most nationalists in government were arrested under the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA), shows a bad heart on their part.

Through POSA and AIPPA, government thinks it has silenced the people. But some, like the defenders in WOZA and MOZA, are prepared to disobey what they see as unjust laws and speak out. Despite POSA, they continue to ACT. Despite harsh conditions in police cells and ill treatment by cruel officers, both uniformed and non-uniformed, they continue to SPEAK OUT.

We quote a sister, Rhoda Mashavave, in her an article titled, ‘Women pin hopes on domestic violence bill’, from zimbabwejournalists.com, “It is rather unfortunate, however, that the Bill will not cover state-sponsored violence which continues to follow women. Take a look at the case of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), the resilient women’s pressure group. These women have been on the front position, protesting against high food prices and human rights abuses in the country. As a result, these women have become jailbirds as they continue to be arrested each time they hold peaceful demonstrations. They have been harassed and beaten up by the police in the process”.

No matter what they do to us, WOZA and MOZA will continue to speak out and act against violence against all Zimbabweans – women, men and children. We will not suffer in silence. We need you to join us – in the words of one of WOZA’s founders, the late Sheba Dube, “Stand up, unite and call a spade a spade.”