“In Zimbabwe we are anticipating elections and a referendum in 2013, and previously our experience has been that women face rape and sexual violence in these circumstances,” says Tariro Tandi of the Musasa Project, a JASS partner that focuses on violence against women in Zimbabwe. As part of the worldwide 16 Days of Activism, Musasa convened a two-day national Women and Peace Conference in Harare, From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World. Gathering over 200 people from women’s rights organisations to traditional authorities, political party and government representatives and donors, the conference was a critical opportunity to break the silence on sexual violence against women, particularly the escalation that occurs during elections.
Women shared heart-breaking stories of survival in the context of violence committed with impunity. Across the region, women activists are experiencing violence at the hands of the state. Recently in Zimbabwe, over 500 Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) activists took to the streets to protest against police harassment of their members. It is feared that with elections looming, violence against women who speak out will only increase. Reflecting on the experience of the last elections, Tandi says, “The government recognised that houses were burned, people displaced and assaulted but even the Ministry of Women’s Affairs didn’t acknowledge that there was rape and sexual violence going on.”
With a clear analysis of what lies ahead, women activists in Zimbabwe are speaking out and building alliances for solidarity and security. JASS Southern Africa is working closely with Musasa on the Heart—Mind—Body Initiative which creates safe spaces for women to reflect and heal, connect and strategise
The heart—mind—body process has been able to provide a space that allows women to talk freely about these issues, without fear of being condemned for it. ~ Tariro Tandi, Musasa Project
JASS’ participation in the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is a vital strategic connection to mobilize a response and pressure from the international community when needed.
Following the Women and Peace Conference, representatives of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) pledged to engage members of all parties under the Global Political Agreement on violence against women and specifically politically-motivated violence.