Connect to share and comment

Obama denounces Mugabe's rule

Women of Zimbabwe get Kennedy human rights award from US president.

It was the first time in the award’s 24-year history that Senator Edward Kennedy did not present the honor in memory of his brother. “Ted knew that Bobby’s legacy wasn’t a devotion to one particular cause, or a faith in a certain ideology — but rather, a sensibility,” Obama said. “A belief that in this world, there is right and there is wrong, and it is our job to build our laws and our lives around recognizing the difference.”

"The organization's name, WOZA — which means 'come forward' — has become its impact — its impact has been even more as people know of the violence that they face, and more people have come forward to join them," said Obama.

The event was sponsored by the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center).

WOZA is a grassroots movement working to empower Zimbabwean women from all walks of life to mobilize and take non-violent action against injustice. WOZA's members stand up for human rights and speak up about the worsening economic, social and political conditions in Zimbabwe at great personal risk.

"Arrests do not deter us because WOZA has empowered us to believe that we deserve better. We deserve to have a roof over our head, food in our stomachs, our children in schools and the nation working," said Mahlangu, in an interview with GlobalPost. "We deserve to live in dignity and free from fear; and it is our right to have our voices heard and respected. That is why I joined WOZA. While Mugabe boasts of having degrees in violence, I and 75,000 WOZA members who stand beside me, have degrees in non-violence."

Mahlangu emphasized that "no resolution to Zimbabwe's crisis has come from the power-sharing government. We are still experiencing repression, people are still hungry."

WOZA co-founder Jenni Williams said the women "are not fighting a revolution in Zimbabwe, we are leading an evolution. And civic education is our tool to evolve the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans to build a strong, new, African democracy where respect, tolerance and accountability are key."

Williams said to Obama: "You know how invaluable community mobilizing can be. We have learnt that knocking on doors, talking with and listening to people is the way we can rebuild our nation. We call on you, to support community mobilizers who are organized to empower Zimbabweans to deliver change from the ground up."

Mahlangu and Williams lead WOZA protests with their signature style of peaceful, yet relentless actions. They lead campaigns to call attention to domestic violence, the rights to food and education for children, and the rights to participation and association.

"As of today, the RFK Center and all of us in this room are watching and galvanizing support for the women of WOZA," said Kerry Kennedy. "We will investigate, advocate and educate on the issues WOZA confronts. We will stand with the women of WOZA as they speak truth to power."