Everyone has been blessed in their life with at least one strong, female role model that showed grace under pressure, kindness when facing adversity, strength when challenged. Whether a grandmother, sister, teacher, supervisor or friend, she was someone who inspired and guided you. Personally, I think my mom is pretty fantastic; but I have also been lucky enough to know many other strong, passionate women I consider role models and among those are the leaders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA).
WOZA is a grassroots activist movement in Zimbabwe started by women, led by women and grown by women into a membership of more than 70,000 across Zimbabwe. Magodonga Mahlangu, Jenni Williams and Trust work to improve living conditions for all Zimbabweans as they promote the self-esteem of their members. They practice non-violent civil disobedience as they take to the streets demanding better schools, better hospitals, greater civil liberties, advancement of human rights, a new constitution that protects Zimbabweans and promotes the rule of law, responsible government that works for the people not for themselves and free and fair elections. Their marches are characterized by singing, dancing and complete passivism when faced by violent dispersal by the Zimbabwe police and anti-riot police.
WOZA began on Valentines Day in 2003, inspired by their slogan “the power of love is greater than the love of power.” Every year they mark their anniversary with large scale marches in major Zimbabwe cities. As a matter of course, these protests are broken up by Zimbabwe police officers, usually with violence. Already in the four short weeks of 2010, thirty-five WOZA members have been arrested for marching for education or meeting to discuss constitutional reform.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police already issued a public warning that WOZA must register their protests or face arrest. The problem with this registration process is that it is dubiously legal under Zimbabwe law and other organizations that have registered protests have still had their marches disrupted by violence. So basically registering paints a target on the back of these mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters as they take to the streets demanding the better quality of life they deserve.
Amnesty International USA is standing in solidarity with WOZA on Valentines Day. We are calling on everyone who has ever been inspired by a woman to help protect and encourage WOZA as they take to the streets. Our action encourages you to send valentines directly to the Zimbabwe riot police, asking them to treat these women the way they would expect their own mother to be treated. We also want you to send valentines to WOZA members, offering words of solidarity as they fight for a better life for themselves and for the future of Zimbabwe. All the information you need to participate in this action can be found here. Help heal hearts and raise spirits in Zimbabwe this year by standing beside WOZA as show grace under pressure, kindness when facing adversity, strength when challenged.