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Role and activities of Zimbabwean women, their impact, challenges
forward in the pursuit of a solution to the current crisis faced
by the country
National Coordinator, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
March 27, 2004
at The Peace &
Democracy Project Symposium, Johannesburg - Resolution of the
Crisis in Zimbabwe 27th March 2004.
Greetings to you all from the community women who make WOZA tick.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you all today and well
done to the organisers for selecting such an appropriate theme:
Action For Now - Vision For The Future!
I was asked
to talk on the role, activities and impact of Zimbabwean women within
the current crisis and to ponder a way forward.
I would like
to start by introducing WOZA to those of you hearing about us for
the first time. WOZA means 'come forward' in Zulu and is an acronym
for WOMEN OF ZIMBABWE ARISE. Woza is a pressure group formed to
give Zimbabwean women an audible voice within the framework of the
We are a non-violent
civil disobedience movement and as food is a scarce commodity in
Zimbabwe we have turned to cooking peaceful demonstrations. Over
the last 18 months over 200 of our peaceful protesters have been
arrested in action. Their average age is about 54 yrs. Myself and
2 other activists have just come out of custody on 9th March having
been arrested on the eve of International Women Day.
target is the urban women of Bulawayo and Harare. The challenge
for 'Mother WOZA' the core group that manages WOZA is to convince
women that they should no longer suffer in silence in their homes
and get them to exercise their freedoms under the constitution.
We tell them that we do not want their tears to form a river and
flow out of the front door into the street but that we instead want
them in the street SPEAKING OUT despite the consequences. We also
remind that them the PEOPLE have a right to make leaders accountable,
be they community, regional or at national level.
In the consultative
process leading to the formation of WOZA, women expressed the view
that it is upon the shoulders of the mothers that the macro socio
economic problems finally land. We felt that women were at the end
of the suffering chain and so they should take the lead in taking
the nation back to a state of sanity.
It is the mother
who sees how low her husband's morale is. And how despondent her
teenagers who cannot get jobs are.
It is the mother
who must magically provide a meal for the family.
It is the mother
who must find a way to get medication for the sick. It is the mother
who must provide when all else has failed.
We also looked
at the nation suppressed by a dictator and we saw the effects of
unjust laws like the Public Order Security Act - POSA and the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act - AIPPA. We saw how
the law enforcement agents have become mere slaves of POSA and do
little else. It saddened us to see the level of fear in people eyes,
when any mass actions were called for and we decided to act. It
is a norm that women have a cultural advantage in that they should
not be indiscriminately beaten up by a man without him being shamed
as cowards. We felt therefore that if WOZA was a movement for women
and we marched as women, we could bank on this cultural norm and
hopefully get the job done without violence. One year down the line
this has proven true. When we have marched as a women's group we
are not beaten up. Yet when we marched with men at the ZCTU march
on 18 November last year, we were beaten up. We have also seen that
we may be the weaker sex but women can be braver than men. I have
led WOZA demos and by default I led the ZCTU demo and without a
doubt women can be led more peacefully and they stand their ground.
You may ask
WHY civil disobedience and not dialogue? And you may ask WHY we
have to get arrested to feel that we have worked?
machine is there to con the world into thinking that Zimbabweans
are content with having their neck stood on and that they enjoy
suffering. The only way to discredit him is to get the people to
take back their power. Why do you think he took a leaf out of Ian
Smith's book and perfected LOMA into POSA? Why am I so hated by
the regime? My sole crime is teaching people civil disobedience
and leading them in defying POSA and nothing more. I say the time
for the people to dialogue has not yet come, it will only be time
to talk when POSA and AIPPA are repealed and Mugabe stops trying
to take away our God give right to speak, think and see what we
King, Jnr said "One who breaks an unjust law that conscience
tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment
in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice,
is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law".
to the issue of the Zimbabwean Crisis! I ask you to think carefully
about this question and not glibly answer that it is a crisis of
governance and a crisis caused by politicians.
We at WOZA believe
that this crisis is perpetuated by the people's inaction and ignorance.
Zimbabweans are yet to understand democracy enough to practice it
without fear or favour. Colonial Governaments suppressed our grandparents
and their children who are our mothers and fathers, Mugabe tried
to sell HIS version of democracy, which has turned into another
form of suppression on YOU and ME.
The regime is
also fast perverting the minds of our sons and daughters with National
Service. We, as Zimbabweans need to learn about democracy in all
its forms and how it is applied at all levels. If we truly understand
it we will never again become so easily suppressed. Knowledge is
POWER and our community people have not had easy access to this
form of power. Why is this conference in Johannesburg it should
be in Emganwini or Mzarabani. In WOZA we preach, teach, and outright
demand that all the freedoms we have be employed so that we can
learn democracy and formulate a African version that we can practice.
So we believe the way forward lies in this direction - empowering
the communities with knowledge then get them to act.
In our Valentines
Day campaign we said Zimbabwe would be a better place when the power
of love replaces the love of power. We have a slogan that we use
the role of women in Zimbabwe right now - and I am talking about
the community women who have to survive on their mettle eating yellow
maize and yellow melons meant for livestock; I am also talking about
the women who can still afford to serve "fattis and monis"
with mince meant; I am talking of women of all creeds and colours.
We must march
on burning issues week after week - in the communities in the cities
and towns and fill the jails with JUST people. Women, old and young
must be at the front of the marches to maintain the peaceful strategy.
We must be bold and say what our men cannot say and DO. What they
cannot do without a brutal beating. We must do this and willingly
'accept the penalty of imprisonment' to arouse the conscience of
If we do this,
Zimbabweans will have a 'vision for the future' and it is the women
who must give it life, give it a heartbeat. We must be seen and
heard in the streets to build and maintain courage and hope.
Come and see
the impact when we attend court as a 'bunch'. It is an education
to see the level of embarrassment from the magistrates and 'slaves
of POSA' when Gogo Majola and the others take off their scarves
and show their white heads. It is an ordeal for the court orderlies
when it takes more time to call out names than it takes for the
magistrate to give us a new remand date.
We have a profound
effect on the people who see us toyi toying and we make sure the
news goes out to the international community fast. As our impact
grows, we will bring into our marches, youth, both male and female
and eventually entire families will march with us for freedom!
Take it or leave
it but thank you for listening!
Visit the Women
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) fact
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