On the 16th October members of WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) held a demonstration declaring the food situation a “national disaster” and demanding immediate food aid. On that day 9 members of WOZA were arrested, 7 were released on the same day but 2, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, remain in custody.
Members of WOZA and other Zimbabwean women have always been at the center of the struggle against repression and state violence in the country. Yet if you follow the mainstream and alternative media sources you would imagine that the women of Zimbabwe, if at all reported, were solely the victims of violence. Otherwise they are largely silent. How many times do you hear women activists, academics or politicians speak to the crisis in the country? In a recent essay in Pambazuka News, Pumpla Dineo Gqola uses her experience in Zimbabwe to highlight the “conspicuous absence” of women in political events and the use of “gender neutral language” of the media.
Where were the women in all the coverage of Zimbabwe, in the negotiations, in the interviews broadcast, among the experts explaining and helping the continent and the world make sense of the crisis? I know from reading, watching and from interactions with feminists from the continent over the years that Zimbabwe has a very strong women’s movement. How is it that I was hearing so little about what women were doing, when they were not being brutalised, inside Zimbabwe?
Pumla goes on to speak of the women she met on her recent trip to Zimbabwe as part of a feminist solidarity group from Southern Africa who were organising “across class and educational status in ways which directly in ways that directly intervene in the crisis”. Evidence of the power of these women can be found in the violent response of the state and men and is further evidence of the direct connection between the “militarization of society” and increased violence against women as seen in Zimbabwe, Nigeria and remains a legacy of Apartheid in South Africa.
Including women in any decision making process is about improving the lives of everyone – women are not at war, women are not killing and destroying life. On the contrary it is women who are the ones calling for peace, growing food, maintaining the homes we grow in, the majority of displaced, of refugees and victims of violence.
TAKE ACTION FOR THE RELEASE OF JENNI WILLIAMS & MAGODONGA MAHLANGU
Human rights defenders in Zimbabwe have been repeatedly tortured, ill-treated, harassed and intimidated while in custody. They have also been denied access to their lawyers, families, adequate food, warm blankets and medical care as well as sanitary products for women. WOZA members have been ill-treated before while in custody.
Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible
– calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, leaders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, who have been arrested purely as a result of peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression;
– expressing concern that human rights defenders in Zimbabwe have been tortured and ill-treated while in custody and ask him to ensure their safety;
-urging the Attorney General to ensure that Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu have access to their lawyers, food, medical care and sanitary products while they are in detention;
-calling on him to ensure that they are treated in compliance with human rights standards governing the treatment of detainees, including those contained in Article 7 and Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Office of the Attorney General
P. Bag 7714
Fax: 011 263 4 777 049
Her Excellency Florence Zano CHIDEYA
Ambassador for Zimbabwe
332 Somerset Street West
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 0J9
Fax: (613) 563-8269
WOZA – For updates
PO Box FM701