Zimbabwean Women organize Stand Up For Your Child campaign, 2008

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
A time of extensive political violence in Zimbabwe. The campaign begins in the months leading up to the 2008 election
February 12th
2008
to
May 5th
2008
Location and Goals
Country: 
Zimbabwe
Location City/State/Province: 
Multiple cities throughout Zimbabwe
Location Description: 
Bulawayo, Domboramwari, Glen View, Kuwadzana, Pumula, and Chitungwiza
Goals: 
To raise public awareness and encourage citizens to vote for the politicians who truly have their best interests in mind.

Later, WOZA issued a report calling on the Southern African Development Community to stop support of oppressive governments and instead support human rights activists, on the African Union (AU) to recognize and isolate Zimbabwean government officials who failed to respect human rights, and on the international community to recognize, document, and spread the word on injustice. Additionally, WOZA demanded a Transitional Justice program

 

In dire economic crisis under the leadership of President Robert Mugabe, many Zimbabwean citizens and human rights activists felt that Zimbabwe was a “dictatorship under another name.” Political violence was common, especially in the months leading up to the general election of March 2008, and the government used police to violently suppress any voices that opposed the current leadership. The organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise (“WOZA”, a Ndebele word meaning “come forward”) was formed in 2003 to give women a voice against injustice and violence. National Coordinator Jenni Williams wanted to urge citizens to inform themselves on the records and policies of each candidate, regardless of their political party, before the vote. Many people felt hopeless or scared to vote against Mugabe. Though WOZA did not endorse one particular candidate, they wanted to raise public awareness and demonstrate freedom of speech. The women mobilized in this “Stand Up For Your Child” campaign in hopes of creating a better future for Zimbabwe.

On 12 February 2008 (Valentine’s Day), 800 WOZA members and supporting men peacefully marched through central Bulawayo. They handed out red roses and informational Valentine’s cards to pedestrians and passing cars. The procession stopped in front of the police administrative headquarters, and policemen on bicycles stood in the street to block the chanting procession. However, marchers simply raised their banners over the heads of the policemen and continued on with their march. Riot police equipped with shields and batons also showed up, but no arrests were made.
The next day, WOZA and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) took to the streets of Harare. Approximately 250 members had gathered to start the peaceful protest, but were soon met by riot police who tear gassed the crowd and beat several protesters. Immediately, 100 members started a march on a nearby street, handing red roses and cards to the police officers who were stationed there. Williams addressed the celebrating crowd, announcing that the local newspaper, the Herald, pledged to expose the police brutality in the media. Soon after, Williams received a phone call from a member of the President’s Office (Central Intelligence Organisation), asking Williams to confirm the meaning of “stand up for your child.” The President had become curious about the campaign and felt it was important to clarify WOZA’s issues. Williams was pleased at how quickly the campaign had gained national attention.

On 8 March, International Women’s Day, over 1,000 members of WOZA took to the streets of Bulawayo once again. The peaceful protesters carried balloons with the name of the campaign on it and handed out flyers. After four blocks, they were met by police who moved through the procession and viciously beat individuals, hospitalizing over 50 members.

Again, another protest attempted to regroup nearby. Police walked through the march yelling out “woza moya” (“come holy spirit”) and assaulted any protester brave enough to reply “WOZA!”. Williams was seriously injured and then arrested after trying to help another beaten woman. Magodonga Mahlangu, co-organizer of WOZA, got herself arrested to join the two women. Upon arriving at the police station, officers explained to officials that the women’s injuries were the result of simply “falling on the ground”. Despite many threats from the police, the women decided to continue peaceful action.

On 15 March, four successful protests were launched at once in shopping centers in Domboramwari, Chitungwiza, Glen View, and Kuwadzana, generating excitement among the shoppers. WOZA and MOZA campaigners sang duets with lyrics like “our children want food, schooling- police, if you harass them, we will be on your backs.” The demonstrations had carnival-like atmospheres, with balloons and children’s games. However, as increasing amounts of children rushed to join the festivities, some demonstration leaders decided that the children’s safety would be at risk if the police showed up, and dispersed the processions early. On that same day, the government passed a new Public Order Security Act to give the Zimbabwe Republic Police greater power in controlling protests. However, the act only explicitly banned the protest dance-and-chant act of toyi-toying (originally used by the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army as an intimidation strategy). This meant that the peaceful protests themselves could legally proceed.

At a diplomatic event on 19 March in Harare, civic society leaders and members of WOZA presented a report entitled “The Effects of Fighting Repression WITH LOVE,” detailing the political violence experienced by campaigners. The report, introduced by WOZA trustee Mary Ndlovu, demanded that the Zimbabwean government immediately end unjust violence and for the Zimbabwe Republic Police to honor “their commitment to the Police Act and the SARPCCO Code of Conduct for police officers.” Additionally, the report called on the Southern African Development Community to stop support of oppressive governments and instead support human rights activists, it called on the African Union (AU) to recognize and isolate Zimbabwean government officials who failed to respect human rights, and it called on the international community to recognize, document, and spread the word on injustice. Sarudzai Njerere, a Zimbabwean lawyer for human rights, said that ”‘the report is an important tool in documenting what Zimbabweans have experienced’ and that ‘we should all join WOZA in standing up for social justice”. Lastly, WOZA asks for a Transitional Justice program, explaining “we call on Zimbabweans and non-Zimbabweans alike to assist in putting into place a mechanism which satisfies the wishes of the Zimbabwean people to see not retribution, but justice, truth and reconciliation, so that the guilty can do penance and the victims can feel healed of the many wounds they have suffered at the hands of state agents.”

On 21 March, several members of WOZA were arrested in Pumula while putting up “Stand Up For You Child” posters and wearing t-shirts telling people to vote. On 28 March, more members were arrested and detained in Bulawayo for placing “Stand Up For Your Child” stickers throughout the city. A member of Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF, Mugabe’s party) reported the campaigners, and they were charged with criminal damage to property. The next day, as violence and arrests proceeded, Zimbabweans made their way to the voting polls.

By 9 April, WOZA marched to call on the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) to release the overdue “true results” of the presidential election. The WOZA newsletter that was distributed demanded an end to the silence, telling voters that “your child expects you to do something responsible and peaceful to defend your vote and liberate the true results.” The newsletter also reiterated that Zimbabweans deserve a leader who prioritizes “an equal society including gender equality with full respect for all human rights including women’s and children’s rights.”

On 2 May, the election results were announced: Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change party won 47.9% of the vote, while Mugabe won 43.2%. However, due to the small win margin, the ZEC called for a second round of voting to be held in June.

In the mean time, on 5 May, an officer in plain clothes arrested MOZA member Trust Moyo, on the claim that the officer witnessed Moyo at a protest weeks earlier. Moyo resisted, shouting that he would “die for WOZA if necessary.” In custody, riot police attempted to force the campaigner to eat the WOZA banner (that he had been arrested with). He was consequentially beaten and soaked with freezing water. Another campaigner, Cynthia Ncube, was arrested and questioned about why WOZA demanded bread and roses at a recent protest (a slogan that symbolized the need for food and dignity...WOZA members had recently reported not being able to buy groceries if they could not produce a Zanu PF membership card at supermarkets.) Officers slapped and threatened Ncube for hours. On the website wozazimbabwe.org, WOZA urged citizens to continuously call the Bulawayo Central Police Station to deliver the message “we call on the uniformed forces to realize that there is no peace in the absence of justice. When change comes, and it will come, WOZA will demand an audit of all civil servants, including the uniformed forces.”

In the final newsletter of the “Stand Up For Your Child” campaign, WOZA members detailed that “the collapse of the schooling and health systems need to be urgently addressed by a new government but these issues are being ignored due to the election impasse.” The women called on Mugabe to immediately hand over power to Tsvangirai, and for the Chief Election Officer, Lovemore Sekeramayi, to use his power to enforce the change. WOZA also made it very clear that they did not want the second presidential vote, because it was evident that the violence would extend as long as the campaign against Mugabe existed.

Months later, Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the run-off as a result of increased political violence on all those who campaigned for him. Mugabe remained president, and few evident changes geared towards social justice have been made. However, WOZA’s efforts did not go unrecognized, and many celebrated the bravery of the women to fight for human rights. In 2009, US President Barack Obama awarded Williams and Mahlangu the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, and in 2012, Williams was awarded Amnesty International's Ginetta Sagan Fund prize, which recognizes women "who are working to protect the liberty and lives of women and children in areas where human rights violations are widespread". WOZA continued to campaign for various Zimbabwean issues, raising awareness on injustices and refusing to be silenced.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Previous WOZA campaigns

Sources: 
Cheldelin, Sandra. Women Waging War and Peace: International Perspectives of Women's Roles in Conflict and Post-conflict Reconstruction. New York: Continuum International Pub. Group, 2011. Print.

"POLITICAL VIOLENCE REPORT March 2008." Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (2008). Print.

"Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » WOZA Urges People to Stand up for Their Children in the Streets of Bulawayo Today." Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » WOZA Urges People to Stand up for Their Children in the Streets of Bulawayo Today. 12 Feb. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <http://web.archive.org/web/20150101214434/http://wozazimbabwe.org/?p=182>.

"Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » WOZA Continues to Urge People to Stand up for Their Children in Harare." Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » WOZA Continues to Urge People to Stand up for Their Children in Harare. 13 Feb. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <http://web.archive.org/web/20150101214154/http://wozazimbabwe.org/?p=186>.

"Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » WOZA Members Beaten in the Streets of Bulawayo on International Women’s Day." Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » WOZA Members Beaten in the Streets of Bulawayo on International Women’s Day. 8 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <http://web.archive.org/web/20150101211530/http://wozazimbabwe.org/?p=189>.

"Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » WOZA Take the ‘Stand Up for Your Child’ Campaign to Communities in Harare and Chitungwiza Today." Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » WOZA Take the ‘Stand Up for Your Child’ Campaign to Communities in Harare and Chitungwiza Today. 15 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <http://web.archive.org/web/20150327202549/http://wozazimbabwe.org/?p=192>.

"Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » Eight WOZA Members Arrested in Bulawayo for Putting up Posters Encouraging People to Vote."Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » Eight WOZA Members Arrested in Bulawayo for Putting up Posters Encouraging People to Vote. 21 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <http://web.archive.org/web/20150327202647/http://wozazimbabwe.org/?p=200>.

"Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » WOZA Take to the Streets of Bulawayo to Lodge a ‘people’s Protest’ and to Call on ZEC to Release the Results of the Presidential Election Forthwith." Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » WOZA Take to the Streets of Bulawayo to Lodge a ‘people’s Protest’ and to Call on ZEC to Release the Results of the Presidential Election Forthwith. 9 Apr. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <http://web.archive.org/web/20150101214141/http://wozazimbabwe.org/?p=202>.

"Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » Two WOZA Members Released into Lawyer’s Custody." Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) - » Two WOZA Members Released into Lawyer’s Custody. 5 May 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <http://web.archive.org/web/20150101214133/http://wozazimbabwe.org/?p=206>.

"Power to the People." : Women of Zimbabwe Arise. 25 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <http://web.archive.org/web/20150327202954/http://power-2-people.blogspot.com/2008/03/women-of-zimbabwe-arise-stand-up-for.html>.

"Zimbabwe: WOZA Took the 'Stand Up for Your Child' Campaign to Communities in Harare and Chitungwiza on Saturday." AllAfrica. SW Radio Africa (London), 17 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <http://web.archive.org/web/20150327203106/http://allafrica.com/stories/200803172033.html>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jasmine Rashid 03/26/15