Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 3

Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise!

Role of Ms. Jenni Williams

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about a remarkable woman who is dedicated to protecting human rights for the people of Zimbabwe.

Jenni Williams is a civil rights activist and founder of Women of Zimbabwe Arise!, also known as WOZA, which is an organization that helps both men and women in Zimbabwe mobilize in defence of their human rights.

I had the privilege to welcome Jenni into my office, where she spoke to me about her successes as well as the obstacles with which she is continuously confronted. She informed me that over the past nine years WOZA has mobilized over 80,000 men and women in Zimbabwe, peacefully sparking dignity, protest and bravery in the name of human rights.

Later that evening I attended a lecture that Jenni delivered at Carleton University. She explained to the audience that the Government of Zimbabwe was primarily concerned with obtaining perpetual power and as a result chooses to ignore issues such as unaffordable tuition fees, sewage backups and water shortages.

Jenni, who was well aware that anyone who did speak out on these issues would be considered an enemy of the state, decided that WOZA would go into the streets, as the mothers and women of the nation, and demand social justice.

After recognizing that the people of Zimbabwe were refugees in their own nation, they decided that this was simply unacceptable. The question they continue to ask themselves is why are so many Zimbabweans living in the diaspora? Why are the policemen, teachers and doctors leaving Zimbabwe?

Through strategic non-violent demonstrations, members of WOZA found ways to empower themselves, and they continue to go out into the streets and tell people to choose love over hate.

Honourable senators, I strongly believe that I am a better person for having met Jenni. Upon departing, she presented me with a scarf that matches the one she so proudly wears. She explained that the scarf, which features a striking rose, symbolizes what WOZA stands for, stating, “The people in Zimbabwe want bread and roses because we deserve the beautiful things, too.”

I am truly touched by Jenni’s thoughtful gift and wear it with pride not only for the women of Zimbabwe but for women all around the world whose lives are plagued with violence and injustice.

Honourable senators, before Jenni left, she informed me that she had been in jail 38 times and had many scars on her body from the beatings she received. I looked at her with sadness and fear in my eyes, but she responded to my concern defiantly by stating, “When you hit a woman, you hit a rock; they will never break me.”