Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Pride of Zimbabwe: Activist Women

It wasn't with a bang but with the clang of their empty pots that the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) arrived on the civic action scene late in 2002. Banging on their empty pots was the theme of their first ever protest signifying what most Zimbabwean women are faced with at home--empty pots and hungry stomachs. This first protest was meant to highlight the plight of the Zimbabwean woman during the prevailing sociopolitical crisis.

WOZA was founded to give voice to Zimbabwean women but was overcome with that maternal fury that only mothers know because of the state of the nation and consequently their families. Going where many men have been too scared to go, they took to the streets and have remained on the streets voiceing their love for a nation in chaos and families rendered destitute.

A couple of months later, on Valentines Day in 2003, WOZA women made headlines with their red rose protest. Like in their first action, they brought what is lacking in their homes out into the street. This time it was love. The power of love over love of power was the message.

And even though they still had love, WOZA women weren't just handing out roses on Valentine's day 2005; they were out on the streets giving what every mother has to give that they hate to give--tough love. Their love for their nation and families propelled them to stage yet another street protest openly denouncing the goverenment--a thing that most people in this repressed country would rather not do. Fifty-three of them were arrested and spent up to three days behind bars. Read more here.

WOZA a determined albeit small group of women isemerging as the prototype of Zimbabwe civic protest movement. Operating on the non violent principles of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr., WOZA has taken several of their protests right to the center of Mugabe's repressive storm, Harare. Their greatest feat to date was walking over 400km between Bulawayo and Harare protesting violence and the death of democracy in the country. Off course, the powers that be didn't like this, but while some of their colleagues took care of the legal wrangle 35 WOZA women who were joined by hundreds of other women completed the march in September last year.

Despite incessant persecution and prosecution by the government, WOZA women refuse to back away from standing for the truth. For the past three years, they have been arrested countless times. Each time, they had some trifling charges brought against them and have paid fines to escape the horrors of Zimbabwe's prisons then have made their way right back onto the streets. Even the states prosecuters are growing weary of challenging them. Amnesty has a dossier of the harassment of WOZA women here.

On Monday over 400 WOZA women marched with black armbands mourning the abuse of rights by the Mugabe regime. This despite the fact that it has hardly been two weeks since some of their members were acquitted by a judge on charges stemming from a 2002 protest. Read the story here.

Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned they say. The only thing worse is several thousands of them angered by a brutal regime that is wreaking havoc on their families. Mugabe & Co. are surely learning that lesson.

WOZA contact info is here

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