Linking up at the 20th African Union (AU) Summit, women’s rights lobbyists from across the continent called for an end to all forms of violence against women. At the Pan Africanism and African Renaissance Dialogue, young women issued a statement: “We want a future free of violence against women and girls at all levels and in all spaces. We especially call for violence prevention, support to survivors and victims of violence, access to justice and ending impunity.” Meanwhile, the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is gaining momentum: Hundreds of groups, including the Green Belt Movement (Kenya), the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (Sudan) and Femmes Africa Solidarité, added their voices in support.
Netty Musanhu, Director of Musasa, a JASS ally in Zimbabwe, chaired and participated in several high-level meetings at the AU Summit. She noted that “[For Zimbabwean feminists and rights advocates] the Summit is a complicated space. There was limited understanding of the Zimbabwe issue – it’s no longer deemed ‘critical’ because it’s been going for too long.”
Yet, with Zimbabwe’s elections looming, women activists across the country are concerned. Politically motivated violence against women – including rape and sexual violence – has accompanied electoral processes over the past decade. “We’ve had leaders, critically Mugabe, coming up strongly around campaigning and peaceful elections but how that is going to translate to the community level is anyone’s guess,” says Musanhu. “Especially if you have the military in the forefront.” In the run-up to referendum and possible elections, JASS will continue to work locally with Zimbabwe allies including Katswe Sistahood and Musasa:
- to support efforts to protect women and make security plans for women activists
- to amplify Zimbabwean women’s voices at regional and continental levels to keep the country on the agenda.
Article credit: Dudziro Nhengu and Maggie Mapondera