Trying times ahead
The passion that drives my vision is like fire in my belly. I want to see a world in which the dignity of human beings is continually reinforced at the individual, interpersonal, community, national, regional and global levels. My vision may sound ambitious but it does not take much to see the suffering of another and it does not take much either to do something, albeit small to begin making a difference in their lives. That is why I am a human rights defender. I fight for my rights and the rights of those around me. I know that single-handedly, my efforts cannot solve the problems of the world, but adding my voice to the voices of those fighting many causes across the globe definitely does. However the reason I want to become a Voices of Our Future Correspondent, comes down to my beautiful nation-Zimbabwe.
In 2008, Zimbabwe experienced one of the worst spells of politically motivated violence that had ever been experienced since the bloodshed of the liberation struggle. These were the most tightly contested Parliamentary and Presidential elections since independence. Those who could not garner support through peaceful campaigns; explaining to the nation their proposed policies and how these would benefit the greater majority chose to use the barrel of the gun and baton sticks to drive people to vote for them. They were in the minority; the majority of Zimbabweans wanted a peaceful election that would bring them a leader with the people’s interests at heart.
I was among groups of civil society actors that observed the elections, assessing the pre and post election environment as well as moving from one polling station to the other on the day of the polls. The operations I participated in covered Mashonaland Central, Midlands and Manicaland, 3 of the 10 provinces in Zimbabwe and included trips into the rural areas.
It is one thing to be told about the experiences of the victims but seeing the dejection, terror and grief on the faces of victims is something different altogether. Some had had their homes torched, most had deep wounds from the attacks and beatings they received, mothers were separated from their children and old women lost their teeth. Women, young and old were assaulted, some raped in front of their husbands, sons, brothers and children. In some cases the perpetrators raped both mother and daughter, one after the other. The reasons for all this terror was that these people had made a political choice to vote for the party they believed would bring them the change they hoped to see.
Later on in the year, working at the Research and Advocacy Unit, an NGO in Zimbabwe in collaboration with WITNESS, we produced a video documenting the experiences of women victims of politically motivated violence http://www.witness.org/campaigns/partner-campaigns/zimbabwean-women-affe.... The video pushed the government of Zimbabwe to admit that politically motivated violence against women is a terrible crime and to lobby them to take measures to ensure that this would not recur. That campaign has been ongoing and has yielded some positive commitments from the Ministries of Health, Women Affairs, Legal and Constitutional Affairs and Social Welfare to devise a strategy to anticipate violence against women in election times. It is yet to be tested how deep these commitments run.
Zimbabwe faces yet another election in 2012. The possibility that the same violations that took place in 2008 will recur is high because none of the perpetrators of the violence have been punished. Instead they move around with impunity. Some of them are even in the habit of going back to their victims to torment them with threats that elections are coming and the women shall get what they have coming. The grassroots are mostly affected because political violence is usually concentrated in the rural areas away from the prying eyes of the media, the diplomats and the majority of NGOs. The chance to become a Correspondent gives me a voice, to raise the voices and the plight of other women during a crucial moment in their lives. VOF gives me the power to be the eyes and lips of these communities and I hope I can be that.