Back to Top

Honouring African Women

Collage of WOZA images

It is International Women's Day today - March the 8th - a day described by the United Nations as a time to,

reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

Days like these are well worth marking, but am I the only person who thinks, 'ONE day out of the year to think about progress and honour women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their country and communities? One day? What about the other 364 days in the year'?

All women in Zimbabwe are extraordinary - by caring for the frail and vulnerable, the very young and the very old, all are playing an extraordinary role in their communities. And I don't mean that in a I'm so sensitive I respect everyone exactly equally kinda way either! I say it knowing how difficult it is for all women to get by in Zimbabwe today.

Can you imagine, for a moment, being the primary caregiver in a country where inflation is rocketing towards 800% and unemployment is at around 80%? Can you imagine trying to take a very sick child to a clinic, desperately hoping the clinic will help, yet knowing at the same time that they can no longer even afford to stock asprin? And when you can't feed or heal your family, how do you find the will to go on when your loved ones are weakening and suffering before your eyes?

It is extraordinary that Zimbabwean women manage to keep putting one foot in front of another when their stomachs are empty, their hearts are breaking and their heads are swimming with worry and despair. It is even more extraordinary that they are able to do so surrounded by a deafening silence from a seemingly indifferent international community. All of these ordinary women deserve to be recognised as 'extraordinary human beings', and it seems hopelessly short of the mark to recognise this fact on one day of the year when the struggle they fight is a relentless soul-crippling daily grind that goes on for 365 days, and then starts all over again.

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) stand out as a group of women who, through non-violent peaceful action, give a public face and press-friendly words to the experience that weighs on all women in our country. Just last month I found myself laughing out loud one afternoon when I turned a corner into a busy street and unexpectedly saw the road awash with flyers and leaflets. Cars driving past sent them swirling and passers-by picked them up.

A few hours later it started to rain - thunder-clouds and lightning and raindrops the size of waterbombs. My only thought was, 'Their flyers. They've just distributed their flyers and now no one will see them because they'll be turned to soggy pulp'. Little did I know that, by then, the brave distributors of the flyers had already been arrested - 181 WOZA women and male members and 14 babies. Remember my concern about the rain....?

They were held at Bulawayo Central and due to flooded cells, the group were kept in a cage outside in the courtyard with only standing room until 10.30pm in heavy rain. [my emphasis]

Soggy pulp was the least of their worries! And things got a whole lot worse for them in the days that followed.

What is remarkable though, when you read about their arrests and the lengths the police went to to get them to sign admissions of guilt, is the knowledge that all this heavy-handed thuggishness took place because a group of women - some with babies strapped to their backs - decided to march down a street in their own country, distributing flyers which announced that they were, "marching for bread and roses"; in other words, bread to signify food and a decent standard of living for families, and roses for love, safety, security and non-violence.

Who in their right mind could take issue with demands like that?

Well, the Zimbabwean government does object, and the women's demands for bread and roses resulted in this sort of treatment:

Today lunch was not allowed into the police station. The women were also told by police that they preferred to give water to prostitutes and vendors rather than WOZA women. Access to toilets is also being denied. Reports are also being received that several women were assaulted on Tuesday by a PISI officer, Mhondoro, who has beaten WOZA women in custody on several occasions in the past. Some were slapped with an open palm across the face; others were kicked in their sides by booted officers as they sat on the floor in detention. (Names of some of these women are available.) 38 women spent Tuesday night standing in one tiny cell. Those on ARV treatment were unable to take their medication because they were denied food. From 2 to 6pm yesterday, women were made to sit in the hot sun just out of sheer malice, it seems.

What is it that the government is so afraid of?

It isn't as if WOZA's actions served to expose a deep hidden truth or draw attention to little-known conditions experienced by a tiny-minority of people. It's not as if the government is jumping to conceal a dangerous 'state secret'. We aren't talking about ladies and babies hurling petrol bombs or throwing their bodies recklessly into police barracades ...

All these women have done is state the obvious. Not even the Zimbabwean government can claim that things are alright in Zimbabwe - but it is nevertheless still criminal for ordinary people to give voice to the basic reality that every single person living in Zimbabwe knows and feels in their bones.

What the WOZA women have shown - largely through the absurdity of the police reaction to their work - is that the truth stated out loud bothers our government. No surprise there then! But given the fact that everyone already knows the truth, it becomes clear that what bothers the government even more - the biggest threat they face - is the simple refusal of ordinary people to be frightened of them.

Hollywood movies and TV action series convey the perception that bravery comes with lots of sweat, pumped pecs and tight abs, blurted single word commands, a touch of glamour and a cowering victim or two to rescue. But who would have thought that one of the bravest things a person could do is walk down their own street, pass a piece of paper to a person standing near by, and ask quietly and peacefully for food and love.

It is in Zimbabwe.

And for that reason we honour WOZA women today. We honour them not only because they are undeniably brave, but because we recognise that their actions give a voice to the experiences of Zimbabwean woman struggling to survive on a daily basis. And through honouring them we recognise the courage of all Zimbabwe women battling in these difficult times - not just for today, but for every day of the year.

And what do WOZA have to say on this, International Women's Day? This comes from a WOZA statement released today (see our previous post):

We will be coming to a place near YOU and asking you to DREAM with us! We will also be asking you to join us in marching to turn those dreams into POSSIBILITIES. We believe the solution is in our own hands and even ‘babies’ are doing their share of the work.

Leave a comment for them here!

Sokwanele - Zvakwana - Enough is Enough

Other bloggers honouring African Women today include: Kenyan pundit; AfroMusing; Uaridi ; Mad Kenyan Woman; Rombo ; Poi ; Mental ; Mama Junkyard ; Mshairi ; Fire Pussy; Nubian Soul; Molara Wood; Zimbabwean Pundit; 007 in Africa; Adefunke ; Pilgrimage to Self; Ore ; Afroblog; Soul on Ice; ET!Weichegud; Journal ; Black Looks; and Jangbalajugbu Homeland Stories.

[tags]International Women's Day, 8 March, Zimbabwe, WOZA, Human Rights, protest, non violent action[/tags]


D. Stevens says:

These brave women have been noticed, by the government of that sad little tyrant, by all Zimbabweans, by freedom loving people in the free world.
The conduct of the Mugabe government, faced with a modest and peaceful march by women, showed its weakness, its terror of 'the people'.
I live in Canada; how can i help.
My respect and love to all those involved.

Submitted by D. Stevens on 8 March 2006 - 10:13am
N.A.A. says:

I sometimes wonder if the WOZA women are mad or brave - maybe it is a bit of both. All I would like to say today is that I am so glad they do what they do, and (regardless of their state of mind :-) ) I am very very very proud of them. They are true Zimbabweans.

Submitted by N.A.A. on 8 March 2006 - 12:12pm

[...] Sokwanele - This is Zimbabwe celebrates the women of Zimbabwe through WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) WOZA stand out as a group of women who, through non-violent peaceful action, give a public face and press-friendly words to the experience that weighs on all women in our country……..We honour them not only because they are undeniably brave, but because we recognise that their actions give a voice to the experiences of Zimbabwean woman struggling to survive on a daily basis. And through honouring them we recognise the courage of all Zimbabwe women battling in these difficult times - not just for today, but for every day of the year. [...]

Submitted by Global Voices O... on 8 March 2006 - 1:08pm
JimH says:

Brave brave people who risk their lives and safety. We salute you and all that you stand for. Keep going, the rest (including the men) will follow!

Submitted by JimH on 8 March 2006 - 2:15pm

[...] African bloggers are using the occasion of International Women’s Day - today - to honor great African women, whether these women are public figures, or simply figures significant to their lives. Global Voices Africa editor Sokari Ekine has a comprehensive roundup in two parts on our site. It’s an amazing tour of the women in the public sphere and family life of bloggers across the continent. Sokari chooses to honor OC Odua, a Niger delta activist who stood up to powerful oil companies who attempted to displace her and her family from her community in the Niger delta. Also very much worth a read is Sokwanele’s celebration of WOZA - Women of Zimbabwe Arise. Happy International Women’s Day, and congratulations to the amazing women honored in all these posts. [...]

Submitted by …My heart’s in ... on 8 March 2006 - 7:24pm
Kristopher says:

Not showing fear.

Not being obedient.

Add voter apathy, alienation, a strong belief that the current government is both ridiculous and illegitimate, and you will be ready to get started.

Good luck ... liberty gets hard, dangerous, deadly, and ruinously expensive from here. But even then it's still a bargain.

Submitted by Kristopher on 9 March 2006 - 1:30am

Dear Sokwanele,
Would you consider submitting a version of this International Women's Day post to the anthology I am co-editing, "Women Writing Resistance in Africa"? We don't have any submission so far that talks about women's resistance in the political sphere, and sorely need one!
All best,

Submitted by Jennifer Browdy... on 9 March 2006 - 1:56am

Happy IWD. This is tiz for a woman and country I respect lots....

Submitted by Kenyananalyst on 11 March 2006 - 3:56pm
Mfoster says:

These women are heroes. So many of us today in the United States take for granted the priveleges (read:not rights) we have. I am proud to live in this country, however, I am repulsed by the idea that not everyone is even close to being so lucky. To not be able to walk down my own street, to not be able to speak out for a cause so worthy and so basic is disgusting. How can the male sex be so ungrateful to the very cause of their existence? My heart goes out to WOZA and I admire their strength, their pride, and their determination to acknowledge and fight for a cause that is so important and vital to a functional society. I wish WOZA the best of luck and may God bless their souls and their efforts to one day be successful. I'm still young and in High School, but something must be done to help. What can I do?

Submitted by Mfoster on 2 May 2006 - 1:34am
Kate Sobo says:

I stumbled upon this blog in my research this morning regarding International Women's Day.
I host a weekly internet-radio show (see below). I will be sharing this blog entry "Honouring African Women" today on my show between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time - New Jersey USA. Bless you, and we will pray for these brave women and their families. peace, kate
The Radio Kiosk
Fridays 11 - 1
Internet radio
Music and Commentary

Submitted by Kate Sobo on 9 March 2007 - 3:15pm


Add new comment

  • Articles
  • Reports
Zimbabwe farmers
IntroductionThis is my last article in this series and I have given...
Sunday, 25 May 2014 - 1:01pm
rural farm Zimbabwe
SummaryThis final article examines the importance of land policy for...
Wednesday, 7 May 2014 - 10:31am
Zimbabwe farmer
IntroductionIn this 11th of 12 articles, I bring the issue of land in...
Tuesday, 6 May 2014 - 7:22pm
cattle herder - Zimbabwe
IntroductionIn this 10th of 12 articles I focus on the need to...
Thursday, 28 November 2013 - 11:02am
Zimbabwe smallholding
SummaryThe debate on land tenure has reached an impasse. A...
Tuesday, 12 November 2013 - 7:31pm
Zanupf Rally, 2013
In a reworked narrative on nationalism, veterans were cast as the...
Wednesday, 2 October 2013 - 11:03am
Note to all: please contact if you have...
Monday, 19 August 2013 - 10:10am
I was ten years old when my two best friends were murdered. I can...
Monday, 5 August 2013 - 3:16pm
ZEC Zimbabwe Voter Registration billboard
In Zimbabwe Election Watch Issue 3 we discussed The President's...
Thursday, 27 June 2013 - 3:46pm
The South African weekly newspaper, the Mail & Guardian,...
Monday, 10 June 2013 - 2:55pm
Simba Makoni, Morgan Tsvangirai, Dumiso Dabengwa
Zimbabwe Election Watch Issue 3 is written in the wake of a...
Thursday, 6 June 2013 - 11:36am
February 2013 has come and gone, bringing with it yet another set of...
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 - 8:51am
A woman waits to obtain her national identity card during a voter registration drive in Harare May 9, 2013
Issue 2 of Zimbabwe Election Watch (ZEW) continues Sokwanele's...
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 - 9:31am
We are Zimbabwe logo
Have you ever sat down to read the newspaper, perhaps during your...
Monday, 29 April 2013 - 9:58am
Beatrice Mtetwa exiting a police vehicle
We are launching Zimbabwe Election Watch 2013 on Independence Day....
Thursday, 18 April 2013 - 8:06am

21.08.2013 Judge Bhunu under fire for call to arrest Tsvangirai’s lawyers SW Radio Africa (ZW)
20.08.2013 MDC-T stab victim ‘lucky to be alive’ SW Radio Africa (ZW)
19.08.2013 MDC-T under attack in Mugabe’s home district SW Radio Africa (ZW)
16.08.2013 Tsvangirai withdraws Presidential Polls Challenge SW Radio Africa (ZW)
16.08.2013 Concern raised as women and children flee ZANU PF violence SW Radio Africa (ZW)
15.08.2013 Increasing political retribution against MDC-T supporters SW Radio Africa (ZW)
15.08.2013 Binga villagers in fear as ZPF retribution continues SW Radio Africa (ZW)
15.08.2013 Judge defers ruling on Tsvangirai’s election records request SW Radio Africa (ZW)
15.08.2013 Tsvangirai MDC Says Mozambicans Voted in Zimbabwe Polls VOANews (USA)
15.08.2013 Villagers threatened over elections Zimbabwean, The (ZW)
14.08.2013 Komichi trial date finally set as lawyers prepare fresh bail appeal SW Radio Africa (ZW)
14.08.2013 Tsvangirai presidential challenge to be heard Saturday SW Radio Africa (ZW)
13.08.2013 Mugabe criticized for hate speech on Heroes Day SW Radio Africa (ZW)
13.08.2013 SABC journalists held for filming ‘Freedom Square’ SW Radio Africa (ZW)
13.08.2013 Police refuse to assist threatened headman in Chimanimani SW Radio Africa (ZW)
12.08.2013 Mberengwa women left half-naked by ZANU PF activists SW Radio Africa (ZW)
12.08.2013 Timba kick-starts fight to have Mt Pleasant poll result annulled SW Radio Africa (ZW)
10.08.2013 Nikuv paid $10 million to rig polls - MDC-T Nehanda Radio
09.08.2013 Police search MDC-T Chikomba office as ZPF retribution continues SW Radio Africa (ZW)
09.08.2013 Tsvangirai files ConCourt presidential appeal SW Radio Africa (ZW)

Latest comments

Mourning the loss of hope and security in the wake of a shamelessly stolen election: what can we do?

Kenneth Donald : 09 August 2013

Bless you Rose for your gracious e-mail and your prayerful concern for your people of Zimbabwe. As a Christian in Scotland,we pray for Zimbabwe at thisdifficult & painful time. May the Lord...

M.Spinks : 07 August 2013

Thank you for your words - as a Zimbabwean living in the UK now, I have been feeling very depressed about the election results and also angry with the corrupt, immoral and insane ZANU-PF party....

Eugene Visser : 06 August 2013

Brilliantly sad article. 

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I stab at...

Debra : 06 August 2013

Thank-you for writing this beautiful heartfelt letter, for sharing what you have shared. It is so unbelievably wrong that your lives in your country are held 'hostage' by this farcical power-...

Rose Brent : 06 August 2013

Reading this has brought back so many unhappy memories and hopes and dreams that have been shatered.... I can hear and feel your pain. I too am a Zimbabwean and am treated like I am an Alien...

Ros Lindley : 06 August 2013

I am not Zimbabwean, but I applaud your bravery to speak out.  I wish you well and I apologise for my president's congratulations of the elections and the result.  My prayers and love are with you...

TERENCE fRENCH : 06 August 2013

Another stolen election, and confirmation that the choice to emigrate frommy homeland has been justified by history. What a cruel oppressive government.

Estelle O'Reilly : 05 August 2013

A few weeks before the elections, my husband and I checked online to see if we were registered to vote. We were both registered, and under Ward 10 in Kadoma Central. When we got inside, I was on...

Anonymous : 05 August 2013

This article captures my feelings at the moment perfectly. Thank you so much for writing this. The people of Zimbabwe are not stupid, and we can hope that in the end justice will prevail. The...

ZANU PF Manifesto: Team Zanu PF 2013

Musimuvi : 07 August 2013

Doe it not hurt to work up and find your self so wrong, now that the results are out. Next time please do not speak on behalf of the people whom you seem to have completely no clue about.

Sometimes I hate to be Zimbabwean

Nhamodzenyika Freedom : 07 August 2013

Simon great article know that you do not stand alone  there are lots of zimbabweans who feel the same way

Statement by the Government of Botswana on the 2013 Election in the Republic of Zimbabwe

buxus-hans : 06 August 2013

oneparty claims victory; it is all a lie and the bill will come as investors now pull out of Zimbabwe.Which means more hardship for the families who already have a hard life....

Declaration by the High Representative Catherine Ashton on behalf of the EU on the elections in Zimbabwe

Abel Rumbwere : 05 August 2013

new look zimbabwe

marco camoronezi : 04 August 2013

Congratulations to Zimbabwe for a peaceful election that certainly deserves thumps up from all corners of the globe.After all this is an election like no other but one that is bound to be...

judy van aard : 04 August 2013

Anybody who believes it was free and fair whn it was so obviouslyy

ririgged is a complete idiot. ZANU had it so tied up they didn't even to use violence. SADSADC and the AU worship Mugabe...

President Tsvangirai’s statement to the press after the MDC national council meeting, Harare, 3 August 2013

mucha : 03 August 2013

Mr Tsvangson, pliz accept defeat and that will retain credibility as a leader. You didn't do your home work properly. You didn't encourage your supporters to register and relied on the same voters...

ZEC Results: announced 1 August 2013

mafana : 02 August 2013

Zim political parties should think about the people's welfare and not self willed personal interests.Voter margins show in mos places a united front would have brought about a different result.

When youths become too important

ZANDILE : 01 August 2013

Finally, somebody shares my thoughts! I feel sorry for these youths and their parents.

This time I will rise up

Immie : 31 July 2013

God bless you. You have my support.

Forces of evil lurking in the dark

True Grit : 31 July 2013

One can only hope that the result will be a positive one for Zimbabwe's future.