WOZA speaks as world marks international women’s day

As the world, including Zimbabwe, commemorates International Women’s Day, members of WOZA find little to celebrate.

As organisations, both local and international, take the opportunity afforded by International Women’s Day to speak out about the need for gender equality, respect for women’s right and an end to violence, WOZA joins the chorus.

Yet we understand that women in Zimbabwe, and Africa as a whole, need much more than rhetoric – they need action. And actions speak louder than words.

The current situation of the ordinary woman in Zimbabwe is heartbreaking.

She only lives until the age of 34 because the Mugabe regime killed a perfectly good health system. She can hardly access antiretroviral treatment and even if she does, the three meals a day she needs to take them with is impossible.

She cannot put a full nutritious meal on the table for her family because Zimbabwe is no longer the breadbasket of Africa but its basket case. She cannot afford to buy food even if it is available because the Mugabe regime put the economy in intensive care and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono put a bullet to its head when he started to remove zeros without comprehensive reforms.

A mother is always preoccupied with a better future for her children so that she can dream about sitting in the shade and being looked after for a change. But the prospects for this have been thrown out of the window by the destruction of the education system by the Mugabe regime.

Educating children was already a challenge previously but in 2008 it became a form of torture for parents. Teachers left, school buildings deteriorated, text and exercise books disappeared to be sold on the streets for exorbitant prices. Government did not even bother to buy chalk, and this burden, along with that of paying teachers, fell on the parents’ shoulders.

Zimbabwe, in the throes of a political and governance crisis, failed to safeguard the rights of children to an education and their right to a better future. The untold story of Zimbabwe is the impact of the crisis on the lives of our children – how these innocent souls will bear the terrible burden of our adult hatred and intolerance.

In Zimbabwe there is now an ‘inclusive’ government but whilst it includes opposing political parties it falls far short of including women who take the time to speak out for women’s equality.

WOZA does not feel represented by the mere fact that there are some women in political office. We want women to use their position to engage and consult women and further our combined interests.

If one takes the time to study the 15th September 2008 Global Political Agreement, rhetoric about women’s representation abounds but they appear to be words without meaning.

Three weeks after the inauguration of this government and 29 years after so-called Independence, women are still not fairly represented in most spheres in Zimbabwe. Peaceful protest is broken up by men armed with baton sticks and women who are simply demanding their constitutional rights are beaten, arrested and detained.

On 9th March 2009, two WOZA leaders will be in the dock in Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court facing a possible five years in prison for demanding political leaders allow free access to food aid for starving Zimbabweans.

In the words of a police officer, this was a crime of ‘exciting people’. In a justice system backlogged for years, with thousands of Zimbabweans in prison and unable to be fed or brought to court, the fact that this case has been prioritised is further proof that women human rights defenders continue to be harassed and intimidated merely for speaking out on behalf of their families.

So a year after WOZA members were beaten and arrested in Bulawayo whilst commemorating International Women’s Day, we still do not find anything in our hearts to celebrate. Instead we use this occasion to remind our leaders that actions speak louder than words.

And to light a candle against the darkness so as to guide our steps on the road to a socially just Zimbabwe. WOZA will continue to demand bread and roses, a full enjoyment of all our social, economic, cultural and political rights and the social justice that will restore our dignity as women. By continuing to take the step forward, perhaps by the next International Women’s Day, we will have something to celebrate.

Mrs Susan Tsvangirai – WOZA mourns the loss of a mother to the nation

Our troubled hearts are further burdened and saddened by the untimely death of Mrs Susan Tsvangirai. WOZA was looking forward to Susan being the mother to the nation that we have long waited for.

We witnessed her dignity and strength in standing by the side of her husband during their 31 years of marriage and understand the unexpressed pain she must have endured watching her husband suffer at the hands of a brutal regime.

We had hoped and prayed that she would enjoy a semblance of peace at his side as a mother of the nation. The loss of this mother of six and tower of strength to her husband is a shocking blow to the nation and all Zimbabwean women.

We offer our heartfelt condolences to the Prime Minister, their children who have lost their mother and rest of their family. May her soul rest in blessed peace at last.


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