Women’s protest of Zimbabwe injustice missing

Date: January 1, 1970
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On Sunday 11 March 2007, just three days after International Women’s Day, the Zimbabwean government showed how far away it is when it comes to respecting people’s rights. State police brutally assaulted and arrested scores of people during a prayer rally in Highfields, Harare. Yet, where were the protesting voices of the women’s movement?

I would have expected that women’s organisations in Zimbabwe and in the region would have stood up in various ways to express solidarity and protest the violent act.  It is true that some women’s organisations have signed on to petitions initiated by other organisations, such as that launched by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), but the women’s movement itself has remained mostly silent.
A press statement from progressive women’s rights activists could have been powerful. The same energy that infused the women’s movement to lobby for the enactment of the Domestic Violence Bill in 2006 could have lent support to the arrested social activists. 
These social activists engage in day-to-day issues. They struggle against high levels of unemployment, high prices of goods, and increases in transport fares. They work to see affordable basic and quality education for our children and grandchildren and affordable health services, especially in the light of HIV/AIDS.
Perhaps most importantly, they struggle to see changes in restrictive participation in the decision making process in socio-economic and political issues. Such issues become political because it all has to do with who decides which resources should be allocated to which line ministry.
All of these are issues that the women’s movements engage with. The women’s movement must recognise the importance of the greater struggle for their own aims and objectives.
It is very embarrassing the government to unleash such violence on its people, just 3 days after celebrating International Women’s Day, so soon after we focused our attention and energy to talk about, and think about, human rights.
This is also a wake up call for all women out there who are in the struggle. We should never forget that someday, one of us might need help and it will not be there. If brave women in Africa like Victoria Chitepo, Ruth Chinamano, Winnie Mandela, and Albertina Sisulu, among others, fought for what was right, why can we not do the same?
Let’s show support to each other at times like this. This is a big struggle with many fronts. Let’s not be relaxed and have an illusion that our battles have been conquered. This is just the tip of an iceberg.
True justice, democracy, freedom and equality starts within ourselves, and only then, can we stand up and show support to our comrades who sacrifice to ensure that our country becomes prosperous again, where the respect for one’s life and dignity is observed. Let’s learn to say no to all forms of violence, whether domestic, public, institutional.
For years, we have encouraged diversity – men and women standing together to advocate for women’s rights, more women in decision-making. So when there is injustice, let’s hear loud and clear from the women’s movement. All activists must lend their voices in solidarity with those who struggle against injustice.
Tafadzwa Muropa is a writer in Zimbabwe. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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