“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own,” a quote from Audre Lorde remain supreme as the Women’s Action Group (WAG) celebrates 40 years of existence.
About 6 000 women were incarcerated under the Operation Clean Up that took place in 1983 in Zimbabwe.
The women were arrested for walking alone at night unaccompanied by men.
Following this incident, a group of women decided to come together on 31 October 1983 and take action to assist their sisters who had been victims of this operation and this gave birth to WAG.
WAG started off through questioning the inequality between men and women in the country.
“The year 2023 marks the 40th anniversary of WAG’s existence in the Feminist Movement Building spaces in Zimbabwe”, Edinah Masiyiwa the Executive Director told the media today.
Masiyiwa went on to say that, “The organisation has been a haven for knowledge, grooming and mentorship for women and other women’s Rights Organisations in Zimbabwe”.
The journey by WAG has not been easy but they were and continue to be motivated by the daily struggles of girls and women.
WAG tackled issues such as domestic violence, inheritence, maintenance, guardianship and custody of children during first decade of its inception.
“During the first decade, WAG successfully tackled issues of inequalities with a specific focus on women’s rights”, revealed Masiyiwa.
She went on to say that, “WAG also played a significant role in advocating for law reform and popularising the Legal Age of Majority Act”.
WAG gave women a voice to speak out on issues that affect them through a magazine, SPEAK OUT/Taurai/Khulumani.
Besides giving women a voice, the organisation also educated the community on HIV/AIDS through its Healthy Programme following the scourge claiming several lives.
WAG played advocacy role which resulted in the enactment of the sexual Offences Act of 2001, Masiyiwa revealed.
Beijing Conference 1995 is so popular for its convention which was premised on woman rights.
WAG also led a delegation from Zimbabwe which attended the landmark conference.
Masiyiwa said, “The Beijing Platform for action became a reference point which guided WAG’s work through focusing on the 13 critical areas of concern”.
WAG through advocacy has been instrumental in the scrapping of user fees for maternity services since the service was out of reach of the ordinary women.
The organisation also played a significant role in advocating for the Domestic Violence Act of 2007, remarked Masiyiwa.
WAG continue to stand as a leader on sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and women’s rights in Zimbabwe.
The country in recent years has been facing natural disasters such cyclones and public health disasters and WAG played an important role in mainstreaming gender in emergencies.
To achieve so much in the four decades, WAG maintains a cordial relationship with Government Ministries such as the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development.
Masiyiwa mantains that, “This has made it easy for the organisation to have Memorandums of understanding in provinces and districts where we have programmes running at community level”.
As WAG celebrates 40 years of existence, they are conscious that there is more to be done for women and girls to fully enjoy their rights.
“The prevailing economic situation does not make it any better.
Women are struggling to put food on the table rather than asserting themselves in decision-making spaces.
We have an increase in adolescent pregnacies.
Other challenges being experiences are, high levels of unemployment and low wages”, revealed Masiyiwa.
WAG is concerned with the decline of women participating in politics besides having contributed much on the participation of women in democratic spaces.
The press conference today was a commencement of 4 months campaign leading to the 40 years celebration that will be held in October this year.
WAG appreciates the support from funding partners, media houses, the community as well as current and previous employees.