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and Men of Zimbabwe Arise holds fourth Sheroes Assembly
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
August 21, 2007
As Law and Order police
officers in Masvingo, Mutare and Bulawayo looked high and low for
WOZA leaders, three hundred and forty three members attended the
fourth annual assembly at a secret location in Matabeleland South
from the 17th to 19th August 2007. Members, both male and female,
converged from Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo, Gweru and Harare with
a large contingent from rural areas. This year's theme was, 'beaten,
jailed but still determined to be free.'
The gathering is known
as 'Sheroes' as it honours modern day sheroes. It is planned annually
to celebrate the courage of ordinary women doing the extraordinary
at the same time as the Government of Zimbabwe talks about their
The final session
saw debate on the upcoming elections in 2008, which centered on
whether members should support an election without the safeguard
of a people-driven constitution or boycott proceedings due to the
lack of a level playing field. A sample vote was conducted with
the majority wanting to vote provided there are some electoral reforms
and repealing of unjust laws such as POSA
The debate will now be taken to community meetings to finalise our
The main resolution of
the Assembly was that WOZA, through its National Coordinator, Jenni
Williams, was to continue to work with like-minded civic groups
to pressure the ruling and opposition party to allow for a people-driven
constitution-making process and to push for a transitional process
that will allow this process to be conducted in an atmosphere of
respect and equality.
The only civic
group able to send representatives was Uhuru, as the assembly dates
coincided with the SADC conference in Zambia. A South African activist
was able to attend to witness proceedings and 'learn about grassroots
democracy'. She hailed the People's
Charter as a progressive route out of the governance crisis
To brace with an expanding
membership currently estimated to be over 55,000, the leadership
body called 'Mother WOZA' has expanded. The election of 43 office
bearers was conducted in a spirit of democracy. All candidates went
through a process of their nomination being first confirmed within
their community before they could stand at the congress. Unfortunately
as they mostly work underground their names must be withheld until
the government of Zimbabwe learns how to respect human rights defenders.
The Uhuru delegates declared the elections to be free and fair and
recommended that the government of Robert Mugabe could learn from
WOZA on how to conduct an election.
Other business included
the formulation of an urban and rural plan of action and a plan
to intensify training on strategic non-violence. Rural mobilisers
also testified as to how they mobilise. In responding to the question
about how they can mobilise so successfully when traditional leaders
have lost their ability to be non-partisan, they responded, "when
someone wants to be free they will always find a way to get there!"
They said they ignored the threats and intimidation by telling each
other "if you are a leader you must not have any fear and not
be scared to address the situation. The chiefs now like us because
they say we address the issues that are a reality in the country."
They went further to say that although war veterans and Zanu PF
supporters continue to harass them, they remain determined to keep
on demonstrating and working together as a team "so that they
will finally agree with what we are fighting for - whether they
like it or not."
When asked the secret
of their success they said, "When we are mobilizing people
we do this area by area. We explain to them who we are and what
we do and what our goal is. Also if you are a woman of substance,
respect and honour in your area you are bound to mobilize the right
people." As simple as that!
One woman testified that
she is unable to benefit from food aid as she is a known WOZA member
but that her friends pass on food to her anyway as the demonstration
WOZA members carried out in July is attributed with putting enough
pressure of the government to bring food aid to their district.
International report, 'Women
Human Rights Defenders At Risk - Between a Rock and a Hard Place'
was tabled and acknowledged as a true reflection of the challenges
faced by WOZA and MOZA members. The recommendations outlined in
the report were also hailed and will be incorporated into advocacy
The assembly closed without
a police raid but a bus, which had been transporting delegates was
later arrested and placed under 'house arrest'. The owner is being
made to face charges 'of using Zanu PF fuel to transport WOZA women.'
This incident epitomizes the crisis in Zimbabwe that even business
people are under pressure to be appropriated to Zanu PF.
The new leadership of
WOZA/MOZA announce their commitment to continue to act, recruit
and train Zimbabweans until they overcome their fear and are able
to come out in peaceful protest in numbers that will force a transition
and bring about a political leadership that will deliver the social
justice promised during the liberation war.
Sports page: Insiza,
with Harare and Gweru in second and third place respectively, won
the Sheroes netball tournament. A mixed soccer tournament was also
held but the final between Bulawayo and Mutare was unable to be
completed due to a ZESA black out.
Visit WOZA fact
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