Accessibility links

Obama Honors Human Rights Activists from Zimbabwe


Two human rights activists from Zimbabwe were honored at the White House on Monday night. President Barack Obama led the tribute by presenting awards to the leaders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA.

Two human rights activists from Zimbabwe were honored at the White House on Monday night. President Barack Obama led the tribute by presenting awards to the leaders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA.

They have braved beatings and imprisonment under Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe. And yet, they march on.

President Obama said that through WOZA, the women of Zimbabwe have become a force for change.

"Over the past seven years, they have conducted more than a hundred protests," said President Obama. "Maids and hairdressers, vegetable sellers and seamstresses - taking to the streets, singing and dancing, banging on pots empty of food, and brandishing brooms to express their wish to sweep the government clean."

At a White House ceremony, the president honored WOZA's leaders with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

He said their movement - some 75,000-strong - is responding to violence with tough love.

"They are a force to be reckoned with because history tells us that truth has a life of its own once it is told," said Mr. Obama. "Love can transform a nation once it is taught."

Jenni Williams founded WOZA in 2002 after Robert Mugabe claimed victory in a presidential election that many Zimbabweans viewed as fraudulent.

She said the group's aim is to give a voice to the people.

"We are mothers of the nation, longing for the award of dignity and a bright future for our children," said Jenni Williams.

Williams was joined on the podium by Magodonga Mahlangu - a member of WOZA whose call to activism came when she witnessed a massacre as a child.

Mahlangu was singled out for her bravery. She said she is humbled by the honor.

"Your effort sends a message that we are not alone and the world is watching," said Magodonga Mahlangu.

Williams and Mahlangu have been arrested more than 30 times during the past seven years. They have another court appearance in Zimbabwe on December 7trelated to an arrest more than a year ago, following a peaceful demonstration. They have been called back to court repeatedly since then.

XS
SM
MD
LG