Honoring Women Human Rights Defenders

October 11, 2012 — On Valentine’s Day 2003, Jenni Williams and other members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) took to the streets of Harare for the first time, distributing roses and proclaiming, “It’s time to love again.”

It was all part of Williams’ plan to increase rights for women in Zimbabwe through peaceful protest. Williams believed her group would be respected because it was composed of mothers, but 17 WOZA members were arrested that day and Williams has been arrested 47 times. 

Beatrice Mukansinga lost five brothers, both parents and members of her extended family during the Rwandan genocide. In response, she established the Mbwirandumva Initiative, an organization that provides support and counsel for approximately 3,000 women and children who have suffered from the genocide.

Mukansinga and Williams have both won the Amnesty International’s Ginetta Sagan award (Williams in 2012 and Mukansinga in 1998). The award honors courageous women who risk their lives to defend the human rights of others. 

Williams and Mukansinga spoke at Georgetown Law as part of Amnesty International’s Women Human Rights Defenders tour. The women have also visited San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Boston.

Speaking to students and new lawyers in particular, Williams noted that international observers are needed and can play a role in Zimbabwe’s legal system. With observers present, “perpetrators will think twice” before inflicting injustice, she said. 

This event was moderated by Ana Sagan, the granddaughter of Ginetta Sagan, a human rights activist during World War II, and sponsored by the Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute and Amnesty International USA.