As the country commemorates 16 days of activism against gender based violence against women, Jenni Williams, one of the leading advocates of women’s rights has just been arrested in Bulawayo. Jenni Williams and 4 other Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) members were arrested at the Drew hall in Bulawayo while 40 others were arrested at the Bulawayo central in acts reminiscent of colonial rule, where police set dogs on the women and used baton sticks to assault them to force them to disperse. At the Bulawayo central police, the arrested say nobody is telling them why they are arrested and this amounts to gross violation of their rights especially in light of the new constitution, which specifically guarantees women’s rights.
WOZA was commemorating Women Human Rights Defenders Day (29 November 2013), which falls within the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. WOZA was calling on Zimbabweans to beat the drum of peace and development to break the silence on violence. WOZA campaigns against violence in all its forms. They chose to march on Women Human Rights Defenders day to raise the profile of this special day. The women wanted to march the same route they marched on this day in 2006 to launch their peoples charter. On this day in 2006, over a hundred members, including a baby, were beaten and arrested. Today, the same events that preceded the march eight years ago have repeated themselves with police showing their brutality and disregard for the women’s cause.
It is saddening that at a time when the nation should be moving away from a legacy of human rights abuses and disempowerment of women, we witness another sad development for the women of Zimbabwe.