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Zimbabwean Rights Defender Wins Prestigious Amnesty Int'l Award

  • Tatenda Gumbo

Jenni Williams, who founded WOZA in 2003 with the late Sheba Dube, has for the past years been arrested and harassed for mobilizing women to demand social and political reforms in the country

Zimbabwean activist Jennifer Williams, co-founder of the pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise has been awarded the Amnesty International USA 2012 Ginetta Sagen Award for Women And Children's Rights, in recognition of her work inspiring women in particular, to fight for their rights.

Williams, who founded WOZA in 2003 with the late Sheba Dube, has over the years been arrested and harassed for mobilizing women to demand social and political reforms in the country.

Amnesty International says the award honors activists who persevere in their work, often against great personal risk and sacrifice.

“I am so proud to honor this brave woman who fights every day for the dignity and rights of women and children in Zimbabwe," said Amnesty Executive Director, Suzanne Nossel. "Few of us can imagine the risks she takes every time she leads a protest"

"Every time Williams is arrested and jailed, Amnesty International activists all over the world stand with her to demand her freedom. As long as she carries on her courageous work, Amnesty International will be by her side.”

A coalition of U.S.-based rights advocacy groups, meanwhile, on Wednesday hosted a public reception and panel discussion focusing on key issues affecting Zimbabwean civil society organizations.

Williams and WOZA national coordinator Magodonga Mahlangu, a 2009 recipient of the Robert Kennedy Human Rights Award, spoke at the event.

Program officer Jeffery Smith of the U.S.-based Freedom House told VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo that WOZA deserves to be honored for organizing and inspiring Zimbabweans to stand up for their basic freedoms.

"Events such as these are important, particularly at this very crucial time in Zimbabwe when state sponsored violence is obviously a serious and chronic problem in the country," said Smith.

The award is given annually to those working to protect the dignity, liberties and lives of women and children in crisis regions.

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