WOZA and MOZA commemorate International Women Human Rights Defenders Day with march in Bulawayo


WOZA members marching in Bulawayo with their demands for new constitution

WOZA members marching in Bulawayo with their demands for new constitution

At noon today, approximately 900 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise marked International Women Human Rights Defenders Day with a peaceful procession to the offices of the state-owned Chronicle newspaper in Bulawayo. No arrests have been reported as yet but as there is a visible police presence in central Bulawayo, this may change.

Jenni Williams, WOZA’s National Coordinator was briefly detained by a senior-ranking police officer during the march but was later released after a discussion about its legality. Williams insisted that Zimbabweans have the right to peaceful protest under the current constitution. Williams was also roughly jostled by the female officer during this exchange, resulting in the aggravation of an existing back condition that Williams has.

The aim of the peaceful procession was to launch WOZA’s consulted position on the COPAC constitution questions. The report is entitled ‘the rising of women means the rising of the nation – no more poverty and starvation, many sweating for a few to benefit’. A copy of the report is available below.

Five groups started from different locations in the city centre and converged on the offices of the Chronicle. The peaceful group sang as they marched and handed out copies of their views on the constitutional questions. Their songs included the lyrics, “there is an issue that we want to make public – our views on the constitution” and “as women we must rise up and stand firm for our views so that our country can improve”.

WOZA began a 15-month civic education process around the constitution in July 2009 involving the participation of 9,036 members (7,885 females and 1,151 males) in a phased training programme that culminated in a consultation around the COPAC questions, the responses to which have been included in the report. Participants were drawn from 37 urban areas in Bulawayo and Harare and 23 rural areas in Matabeleland and Mashonaland. The age range of these participants was 14 to 93 years.

The report has been formally submitted to COPAC. The procession today is the first in a series of peaceful marches designed to ensure the views of members are heard, respected and will be included in the draft constitution. Members selected The Chronicle offices as a target in their fight to pressure for free media and to express solidarity with the arrest and extended detention of Nqobani Ndlovu, a Bulawayo-based journalist.

29 November is a significant date for WOZA. It is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day and part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. Furthermore, on 29 November 2006, hundreds of members were brutally beaten in Bulawayo and many arrested whilst peacefully launching the WOZA People’s Charter.

Whilst recognising the importance of the 16 Days of Activism, WOZA would like to insist that 365 days of the year be considered days of activism against gender violence. At no time, is violence against any individual acceptable.

This protest follows a victory for WOZA in the Supreme Court last week.  On Friday 26th, Justice Garwe, the Supreme Court judge of appeals, handed down a ruling on the 2008 challenge taken by WOZA leaders, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu. The verbal ruling granted that the two women had been wrongfully arrested and detained and, as a result, had their rights and fundamental freedoms violated. Justice Garwe also ruled that the state had failed to protect the activists from this abuse. The application for a repealing of section 37 (1) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act was dismissed and the reason will be made available. More details are available below.

To read a full copy of the report submitted to COPAC, please click here: WOZA presentation to COPAC 29.11.10


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