Their actions were inspired by remarks made by Kuda Chitsike, Program Manager at the Research and Advocacy Unit in Zimbabwe and keynote speaker at the WITNESS Focus for Change Benefit Dinner and Concert in New York last week.
In 2007, Ms. Chitsike and her organization partnered with WITNESS, the international human rights organization, to produce visual evidence of violence against women in the region.
In 2008, political violence erupted throughout Zimbabwe as a result of highly contested national elections. Between the months of May and July, local organizations estimate that state-sanctioned groups abducted, raped, tortured, and beat over 2,000 women and girls due to their political affiliations.
Human rights groups believe these numbers to be much greater, as currently there are no formal mechanisms to report these types of attacks. Local police ignore these women’s pleas for protection and accountability, and national leaders have been equally unresponsive.
As the country prepares for another election year, women’s groups are bracing again for an increase in attacks for real or perceived affiliations with the MDC Party, headed by Mr. Tsvangirai.
Signatories implore Prime Minister Tsvangirai to ensure that the government of Zimbabwe investigate and prosecute all cases of politically motivated violence against women and bring the perpetrators to justice, as stipulated in the Global Political Agreement through national justice institutions, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, or SADC tribunal.
The petition advocates for financial assistance, including medical and psycho-social support, to women who have experienced violence, as reiterated by the Zimbabwean Global Political Agreement and the South African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development.
WITNESS (witness.org) uses the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. By partnering with local organizations around the globe, WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video as a tool to shine a light on those most affected by human rights violations, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools of justice.