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WOZA mark International Human Rights Day with six street actions
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
December 10, 2005

HUNDREDS of members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) took to the streets of Harare and Bulawayo today in six separate protest marches to commemorate International Human Rights Day.

The women wore t-shirts calling on Zimbabweans to 'Stop Violence against Women' and also bearing the international symbol for this campaign - an open hand. Whilst marching, the women distributed WOZA's newsletter which included an open letter to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to stop arbitrary arrests of WOZA women.

By noon five women from the Harare protest were in custody at Harare Central Police station. They were assaulted with open palms and baton sticks whilst in detention by officers, including one called Mhondoro. Due to a combination of this assault and refusal of access to lawyers, the women decided to negotiate the payment of ZD $25,000 admission of guilt fines. They were released on this basis at 16:45 pm. In Bulawayo no arrests were recorded although five simultaneous protests had been conducted.

The placard-waving women held aloft placards and banners bearing their messages, including "the strongest man is a woman" and an Eleanor Roosevelt quote, "Women are like teabags. We don't know how strong we are until we are in hot water."

In the spirit of "Tough Love", WOZA's brand of civil disobedience, the 'mothers of the nation' defied the Public Order Security Act (POSA) and conducted their protests without giving notification to the police.

In Harare, after a WOZA delegation participated in a ZimRights-organised march, they went on to gather on Fourth Street before proceeding along Nelson Mandela Avenue. The women were intercepted at Second Street by a police vehicle however and five women were promptly arrested. The five are Loise Grezia, Rosemary Mironga, Julia Chipehama, Noria Kadhari and Monica Chimbiro. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have reacted and are attempting to gain access.

In Bulawayo, five community-based protests were conducted simultaneously. They were joined by male defenders and children who found the singing and evident enjoyment of the protestors irresistible.

Women started their protest at Mabutweni Shopping Centre and ended at Mabutweni Police Station where the women dispersed, leaving their placards and the open letter addressed to the ZRP. In Mpopoma, the protest started at Msitheli High School and ended at Matshobana Beer Garden, passing Traffic Police on the way. As the women dispersed, a police vehicle pursued some protestors but soon gave up chase. In Tshabalala, WOZA women gathered at the shopping centre and marched towards Sizinda Beer Garden, leaving their messages with the patrons present. In Magwegwe, Pumula, Emakhandeni and Luveve, protests also started and ended without incident as did the Nkulumane contingent. As the marches proceeded, children joined in helping to distribute the Woza Moya newsletter.

On International Human Rights Day and the final day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, WOZA made the following demands to the ZRP in their open letter:

  • ALL Zimbabweans respect the rights of women and girls and violence against women is stopped. NO MORE VIOLENCE!
  • The police respect the rights of women human rights defenders and the women they represent. We call on the officers from all ranks to refuse to arrest WOZA women as they go about their peaceful business.
  • ALL police officers read and uphold the 2001 Harare Resolution on the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO) Code of Conduct for Police Officials. The specific points that should be implemented to restore their dignity as professional police officers are, in particular, Articles 1- 5.

Article 1 - 'In the performance of their duties, police officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.'

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