Zimbabwe women recognised by Amnesty International

Berlin – The pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) received Amnesty International's 2008 human rights prize at a ceremony in Berlin on Sunday evening.

The award, worth €10 000 (about R130 000), was presented to a delegation led by the group’s two spokesperson, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu.

Co-founder Williams and her organization were honoured for "their tireless struggle for human rights," the German chapter of Amnesty said ahead of the presentation.

Since its inception in 2003, WOZA has managed to provide Zimbabwean women, regardless of social status or class, a united voice to speak out on issues affecting their day-to-day lives.

‘I am aware they are trigger-happy’

Williams and Mahlangu are the movement’s most visible leaders, and have played a key role in encouraging women to stand up for their rights and freedoms.

The group has campaigned for better access to food and medicine as well as launching protests against the mass eviction of slum dwellers and restrictions on public gatherings and free speech.

But their commitment has regularly brought them into conflict with President Robert Mugabe’s heavy-handed police. Williams, 46, has been arrested 32 times and spent four months in prison, including a 37-day between May and June this year.

"I am aware they are trigger-happy but they will never manage to arrest us all," Williams once said. "The prison cells in Zimbabwe cannot accommodate all of us. Civil disobedience will remain very much part of our game unless the regime addresses our concerns."

With more than 35 000 members, WOZA is one of the few organizations that has dared to stand up to Mugabe, whose policies have led to food and cash shortages in Zimbabwe. – Sapa-dpa