Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) does things a little differently than most of us on Valentine’s Day.
Instead of watching romantic comedies or eating candy this Valentine’s Day, the members of WOZA will be holding their 14th annual Valentine’s Day demonstration to fight for women’s access to schooling, healthcare and “an end to government oppression of activists.”
Formed in 2003, WOZA boasts over 75,000 male and female members across Zimbabwe. It provides a safe space for Zimbabwean women to come together and speak on issues affecting their daily lives. Ultimately, the movement aims to “empower female leadership” in communities and “encourage women to stand up for their rights and freedoms.” Since its founding, WOZA has participated in hundreds of protests, released several successful campaigns advocating for equality and education in Zimbabwe, and has been a part of international demonstrations, which includes their Valentine’s Day march.
Each year, WOZA’s Valentine’s Day demonstration has a different theme, last year’s being “Demanding Dignity – Demanding Women’s Empowerment!” The 2015 procession included over 1000 people, all rallying for economic equality and empowerment for women and youth. WOZA sang songs and chants advocating their demands in front of the Mhlahlandlela Government Complex, and attempted to present the Zimbabwean resident minister with a petition underlining their rights. However, as is often the case in WOZA’s protests, members were beaten and threatened by police officers before their petition could be handed over.
WOZA’s work is incredibly inclusive and groundbreaking, especially when looking at how it’s run. The movement includes people of every age, gender, ability, social status, and economic background, and has a growing chapter of male members in their male chapter, Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA). Jenni Williams, founder and national coordinator of WOZA, has been awarded accolades from the Ginetta Sagan AmnestyUSA award in March of 2012 to the 26th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award at the White House in 2009, which was presented by President Obama.
WOZA’s most recent undertaking was the “Save Zimbabwe Education” project, which collected the thoughts of over 14,600 children and adults on how the most pressing educational issues of Zimbabwe could be solved. The study took into account the opinions of citizens from both rural and urban areas, all of whom reported the same main issues: overpriced education, and corrupt or unqualified school officials. The study features comprehensive suggestions for how teachers, students, and parents can rally together to fix these issues on both local and national levels.
In 2006, WOZA was also know for compiling the voices of 10,000 Zimbabwean people to create the People’s Charter, a declaration of citizens’ wishes for the future of their country. The People’s Charter covers 14 main topics, including encouragement of democracy, healthy living and working conditions, access to fair, unbiased news and nonpartisan government officials, and accessible quality education.
If you would like to show your support for WOZA and their People’s Charter, you can endorse the charter here.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF NEHANDA RADIO.