Spring 2010 Featured Acquisition
On view now in the Exhibit Hall of the Department of State
Scarf, with emblem of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
Gift to Secretary Rice from Jenni Williams, WOZA founder
Collections of the U.S. Diplomacy Center
Jennifer (“Jenni”) Louise Williams founded WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) to prove that “the power of love can conquer the love of power.” “Woza” is also an Ndebele [a language of Southern Africa] word meaning to “come forward.” Today WOZA numbers more than 75,000 members. Targeted demonstrations take place on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day to emphasize love and understanding. WOZA
members form the letter “L” with their thumb and first finger to signal that they stand for tough love. “‘Tough Love’ is our secret weapon of mass mobilization,” Jenni says. “We love you enough to discipline you. Political leaders in Zimbabwe need some discipline; who better to dish it out than mothers?”
The scarf embodies the passion of WOZA’s activism. “Black to mourn the loss of life and white to show our peaceful stance,” Jenni wrote in an email to USDC. The logo portrays “women with hands up showing that we have arisen” along with the words “Standing Up for Rights” in three languages—English, Shona and Ndebele. Jenni says, “The scarf is worn around the head Africa style by our members . . . with pride in a spirit of defiance. It is also normal to give someone the scarf from off your person, so I gave mine to Secretary Rice . . . as I met her to receive the Women of Courage award.” Jenni cautioned the Secretary that wearing the scarf in Zimbabwe could lead to arrest.
Born in Zimbabwe, Jenni counts an Irish grandfather and Matabele grandmother in her lineage. At 16, she dropped out of high school to care for her six siblings. From 1994 to 2002 she ran a successful public relations firm in Zimbabwe. When she founded WOZA in 2003, Jenni committed her life to peaceful activism, women’s rights and government reform, following the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Despite the seemingly insurmountable hardships she encounters daily and more than 50 brutal imprisonments as of 2009, she is optimistic that her struggles will yield positive results. At the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award ceremony she said, “We are not fighting a revolution in Zimbabwe, we are leading an ‘evEolution.’ The building blocks of this democracy are being laid in cattle kraals, tiny two-roomed houses and church halls across the country.”
Jenni Williams presented this WOZA scarf to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice upon receiving one of the first International Women of Courage Awards from the Secretary in March 2007.
Left photo: WOZA activists express double-handed “love” heading toward a march in Harare in 2004 to protest for human rights reforms. Jenni Williams is second from right. (AP)
Right photo: Jenni Williams (far left) and WOZA co-founder Magondonga Mahlangu receive their Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Awards in 2009 as Ethel Kennedy and President Barak Obama applaud. (AP Photo)
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