Arrested for Commemorating International Women’s Day
4 young women were arrested and detained for 3 hours for organising an activity to commemorate the International Womens Day (IWD). Glanis Changachirere IYWD Director, programmes staff Gillian Chinzete, Sekai Nyadzayo and Nyasha Sengayi a women’s rights activist who had come to anchor the event were detained by the suspicious individual purpoting to police officers in Glendale, Mazowe district. The young women through the Institute for Young Women Development had organised a film festival activity to profile young women’s narratives and their quest to transform their lives.
Lined up for the day was to start by showing a documentary titled Young Women’s Lived Realities that documents the lives of young women from rural, farming and mining communities in rural Mashonaland. This was to be followed up by artistic performances to tell how the young women have worked with the IYWD to transform their lives.
The day which started as an exciting prospect of celebrating young women’s lives was disrupted at the beginning of the activity when IYWD staff and community mobilisers started receiving anonymous threatening calls to cancel the activity with immediate effect. Few moments following the calls, the IYWD staff and Ms Nyasha Sengayi were taken aside the venue by plain clothed and self-acclaimed police officers for questioning while more than 200 young women who had gathered for the commemoration were given an hour’s time to disperse or face unspecified action. Baffled by this order, the young women demanded reasons and defied the order arguing that they will not disperse as they have commemorated such a day annually without facing such challenges. They said this was their day and would not allow the anyone to spoil it by denying them their right to celebrate themselves.
After a 3hours’ detention, the quad were released and forced to dismiss the women within less than 20minutes, on the pretext that they cannot commemorate IWD before the national launch of the day by the Minister of Women’s Affairs on 26March in Harare. What shocked the team was that the police came later to monitor the activity only to be told that they had ordered for its cancellation. The local district administrator’s office even confirmed to the police that they know and work with IYWD in the area.
Speaking at the sidelines of the gathering young women expressed their disappointment and frustration on being denied to celebrate themselves for such a reason. They lamented such acts are a threat to young women’s security as they do not who the callers were and whether the respect the national call to end violence against women both in their private and public lives.
The IYWD is deeply concerned at such moves which threaten the commitment of the state duty bearers to uphold women’s rights. Zimbabwe has ratified the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women which encourages the eradication of violence against women. Such elements are therefore acting against the commitment of the Zimbabwean government to protect and provision of women’s rights.