Up to 83 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) , a militant, nonviolent social justice activist organization were arrested last Thursday, and 18 were stripped of their clothing and jailed nude over at least a day’s time. Some of the WOZA members were badly beaten, including two women, Clarah Makoni and Angeline Karuru, who had taken food to the victims at one of the police stations, according to WOZA coordinator Jenni Williams. The arrested women were mostly mothers who in the past have clanged pans and handed out roses in the street to draw attention to the problem of food shortages and who demonstrated Thursday to protest interruptions of power.
The arrests are part of an ongoing pattern of government suppression of criticism and pro-democracy activists and activism.
From the WOZA website:
WOZA, the acronym of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, is an Ndebele word meaning ‘Come forward’. Now with a countrywide membership of over 35,000 women and men, WOZA was formed in 2003 as a women’s civic movement to:
- Provide women, from all walks of life, with a united voice to speak out on issues affecting their day-to-day lives.
- Empower female leadership that will lead community involvement in pressing for solutions to the current crisis.
- Encourage women to stand up for their rights and freedoms.
- Lobby and advocate on those issues affecting women and their families.
Based on the principles of strategic non-violence, through our actions, WOZA creates space to allow Zimbabweans to articulate issues they may be too fearful to raise alone. WOZA has conducted over 50 protests in its three-year existence and over 2,500 women have spent time in police custody, many more than once and most for 48 hours or more. These women, front-line human rights defenders, are willing to suffer beatings and unbearable conditions in prison cells to exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms.
WOZA was formed to be a litmus test proving that the power of love can conquer the love of power. ‘Tough Love’ is our secret weapon of mass mobilisation. ‘Tough Love’ is the disciplining love of a parent; women practice it to press for and to bring dignity back to Zimbabweans. Tough Love is a ‘people power’ tool that any community can use to press for better governance and social justice, especially for Zimbabweans. Political leaders in Zimbabwe need some discipline; who better to dish it out than mothers!
…In August 2006, at the WOZA National Assembly, it was resolved to form Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) and this wing has been growing steadily. Men, mostly youthful, are ‘coming forward’ to join the non-violent struggle for a better Zimbabwe.
…During 2006, WOZA carried out consultations on social justice across the country. In 284 meetings, almost 10,000 rural and urban people told us what they want in a new Zimbabwe. We wrote down what they said and the result is the People’s Charter.
There is good information on Kubatana Blogs about the way the Mugabe government and law enforcement agencies are characterizing groups like WOZA as “opposition forces” and anti-government terrorists. Dr. B of Mugabe Makaipa blogs here about a phone conversation she had with a WOZA leader as the arrests and police chase were unfolding. More info on WOZA here: