I live in a country governed by old men and old ideas. Old men resistant to change and who fight it at every opportunity, who have presided over decay and destruction and defended it in the name of ‘sovereignty’ ‘tradition’ or ‘culture. Stiff and petrified, they rule by fear.
I work in a village which is committed to change. To listening, to adapting, to being flexible, to shifting with the movement of the earth and the sighs and signs of people. A place which is open and welcoming – to people and ideas.
These two worlds clash.
Its is hard to remain open within a closed society, We are subject to the rules of ‘government’, of institutions which are supposed to protect citizens, but which in this case do the opposite. The closed world has the power – and the armed forces to impose that power.
We try to create change from within, to live the change we want to see. We do it in small ways. Making a safe preschool for our children. Growing and eating healthy food and herbs. Listening to each other. Inviting people in to see what is possible.
There is a group of women who do it in a bigger way. Who push the boundaries. Who continue to claim what are really quite small things – a home with shelter from the elements, enough food, safety for children, peace, the right to be heard. Who are regularly arrested, usually en masse, for a variety of crimes.
WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) is a civic movement formed in 2002 “to provide women, from all walks of life, with a united voice to speak out on issues affecting their day-to-day lives, to empower female leadership that will lead community involvement in pressing for solutions to the current crisis, to encourage women to stand up for their rights and freedoms and to lobby and advocate on those issues affecting women and their families.”
Very criminal. Openly subversive. Last week 83 members were arrested after a peaceful protest to Parliament about community safety and police behaviour in communities.
The group were charged first with public disorder, then with obstructing traffic and finally with being a ‘criminal nuisance.’ They were released after 2 days in Harare Central’s filthy and crowded ‘temporary’ holding cells. While they were inside Police attempted to deny the group their lunch (brought in by well wishers) saying they could only receive the food in the presence of a lawyer.
They are back in court tomorrow… as they have been almost monthly since 2002, when on Valentine’s day they were arrested for distributing roses to the public as a prayer for peace.
Through World Pulse – more people will know about WOZA and about the other brave small struggles that take place daily from unseen and unsung women and men. Through this network we can witness these voices and actions that do make change and that encourage us all to press for the future we want to live.