Tag Archives: Zimbabwe

Women Rock the Golden Globes, Start-up Sisters Decline Millions, Street Harassment Intensifies in Africa, and Ocean-Bound Healthcare

2015 is strong out of the gate with more than 10 top feminist moments at the Golden Globes, and local start-up women not only getting big TV exposure, but also turning down millions in funding. See what the realities of the new year look like for women in Hollywood from highlights to job truths, why street harassment has escalated in Africa, and how one doctor has beaten abortion laws by taking her clinic to the seas. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

By Spark Fellow: Kendra Hyett



FEMINISM: Hollywood Women Rock the Globes + “Celluloid Ceiling” Revealed

In 2014, actress Emma Watson spoke at the U.N. Headquarters, calling men to be advocates for gender equality with the “HeForShe” Campaign; male celebrities Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Aziz Ansari, John Legend, and more stepped up as feminists; plus female-led film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 was the biggest opener of 2014. But Hollywood 2014 news also included the shocking break of multiple rape allegations against beloved actor and comedian Bill Cosby as well as female actors Cate Blanchett and Mindy Kaling speaking up about sexism in Hollywood casting and jobs behind the camera. So what will 2015 look like in Hollywood? The fact that there were 10+ top feminist moments in the 2015 Golden Globes sounds like 2015 is coming out of the gate strong, so check those out below for a little new year’s cheer, but also a dose of how far we have yet to come with the new year’s report on female jobs in Hollywood.

The Most Feminist Moments of the 2015 Golden Globes
Breaking Through Hollywood’s Celluloid Ceiling


TECHNOLOGY: SF Start-up Sisters Spurn “Sharks”

The three Bay Area sisters who created dating app, Coffee Meets Bagel, are getting a lot of attention! Not only is their dating app designed by women for women and has been racking up the success stories, but in early January, the sisters had the huge opportunity at getting some serious funding from investors on Shark Tank. Find out why these local entrepreneurs turned down the sharks’ $30M offer. (Yes, 3-0 MILLION!!)



GLOBAL WOMEN’S RIGHTS: Attacks on the Street Fight Women in the Seats

In late 2014, a woman in New York filmed herself walking through the city catcalled and followed while wearing jeans and a t-shirt, a woman in Nairobi wearing a mini-skirt was filmed being stripped and attacked by a crowd, and a girl in Zimbabwe wearing a short dress was filmed being dragged off a bus and stripped. Obviously, this is about a whole lot more than “inappropriate” clothing and even a woman’s right to dress as she wishes without harassment. This poignant New York Times article discusses how in Africa (and likely around the world), these attacks on women are not about what women are wearing, but about where women are going as women rapidly advance into positions of power.



GLOBAL HEALTH: Clinic ON the Sea – Doctor Goes the Distance for Safe Abortions

With abortion laws under fire, an incredible doctor took her clinic to international waters. Dr. Rebecca Gomperts started her own organization sailing around the world to teach women to safely use abortion-inducing drugs. Get the scoop on how it works and about her amazing documentary that premiered at SXSW.


WOZA Update

The six WOZA members—arrested on May 18th for alleged malicious damage to property—have been released on bail ($100 each) with conditions. They were represented by human rights lawyers Kossam Ncube and Godfrey Nyoni. The lawyers confirmed in the court record what we reported on our blog last week–the accused were denied food. Additionally, police officers threatened them with death and disappearance. The police verbally abused the accused calling them prostitutes. Under this duress, five members admitted to the charge. This took place in the absence of their lawyers.

Over the weekend two homes were raided without a search warrant. At the time, no arrests were made. Then, on Tuesday, eight more WOZA members were arrested including a mother and her 3-month-old baby. Lawyers have been deployed.

Yesterday (May 25th, 2011) was Africa Day in Zimbabwe. The electricity was cut for 6-18 hours.

Calling for WOZA

Photo Credit: Sokwanele-Zimbabwe

On Wednesday, May 18th, six WOZA members were arrested for a peaceful protest in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. They have been accused of painting messages on the road—messages that read- “power to poor people,” “no lengthy load shedding” and “prepaid meters now!”

For the last five years, WOZA members employed an organizing strategy to end price gouging and corruption by the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC). Extended blackouts and overbilling greatly impact the quality of life of Zimbabweans.

WOZA fears that these six members are being tortured. Their fear is merited. In March 2011, fourteen WOZA members were tortured while in custody. This morning these six women were denied food and access to their lawyers.

WOZA has asked us for help. They would like us to call the Western Commonage police station +263 9 403996 and request to speak with Assistant Inspector Purazeni, the officer-in-charge. The Standard Time difference is GMT +2 hours. When you speak with him ask him to abide by international standards of detention. WOZA has also suggested that we call the Law and Order Department at +263 9 72515 and implore their protection of the basic human rights of these activists.

When Jenni Williams, the co-founder of WOZA, spoke to Spark earlier this year, she told us that flooding the police station with calls is one of the few strategies that can protect her members from certain beatings and torture. A clogged phone line becomes a nuisance and the police release their detainees with greater expediency to avoid the hassle.

Please join Spark in being a nuisance. Tell us how your calls are going and we will continue to provide updates.

Let’s speak up for the women of WOZA.

Moms Fighting Back

By SARAH MIERS, Spark Fellow

At last month’s speaker series, we were honored to host Jenni Williams from the women’s activist group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA).  With a membership of over 75 thousand women and men, the organization works to empower Zimbabweans across the country to stand up for their rights with non-violent activism.

Through a moderated discussion with KQED’s Stephanie Martin, Jenni explained how WOZA members spread the word of upcoming protests by walking miles from one town to the next. She explained how each protester understood that their participation would likely lead to incarceration. It was shocking to hear Jenni calmly explain how these women were trained to prepare for their peaceful protests…

Here are some of WOZA’s tips:

  • Be conscious about what you wear: they will be your only clothes for a week or so in jail. Make sure to wear a sweater or jacket as it will be your blanket. It is also provides extra padding if you are beaten.
  • Make sure to bring sanitary supplies, especially toilet paper. There is no toilet paper in jail. And it can double as a pillow when wrapped in your jacket.
  • For mothers, make sure to prepare meals in advance and secure childcare. You cannot be certain on how long you will be away.
  • When you are beaten or arrested, be prepared to look at your aggressor in the face and tell him your name. It will remind him that your are a human.

While these problems may seem far away, we face related issues here at home. Just like WOZA members need to prepare for potentially long-term childcare for their absence in jail, Spark grantee Center for Young Women’s Development in San Francisco works to secure rights for incarcerated mothers, as one-third of women in San Francisco’s juvenile justice system are pregnant or parenting.

By advocating for their “Incarcerated Young Mother’s Bill of Rights” (below), the Center addresses current laws that restrict women from visiting their children and wearing shackles during visits. They also recently co-authored the Anti-Shackling Bill (Assembly Bill AB 1900) that would require state-wide improvements for restraining pregnant women during transport, as “nearly two-thirds of county jails shackle pregnant women in ways that could cause miscarriage or other serious injuries”.

Spark supports women advocating for their rights. This Mother’s Day we stand in solidarity with moms from Zimbabwe to San Francisco.


  1. We have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
  2. We have the right to be mothers and not be discriminated against because of our age, and status of offense.
  3. We have the right to regular check-ups and proper prenatal care and nutrition.
  4. We have the right to have somebody with us while we’re having our babies.
  5. We have the right to not be handcuffs and shackled during labor.
  6. We have the right to recovery in the hospital after birth.
  7. We have the right to see, touch, and speak with our children.
  8. We have the right to be informed about our children’s well-being and safety.
  9. We have the right to have support and advocacy while incarcerated and the right to know our rights as parents.
  10. We have the right to have access to information and education, such as prenatal and parenting classes, so that we can be the best parents we can be.

For more information on the Incarcerated Young Mother’s Bill of Rights please contact LeaJay Harper at leajay@cywd.org or 415.703.8800 ext. 212.

Progress Interupted

BY SARAH MIERS, Spark Fellow

Two weeks ago, Amnesty International requested that Spark remove the name of an upcoming speaker from searchable websites and databases. The speaker is from Zimbabwe, and due to the recent police harassment of political dissidents, her advocacy for human rights has made her a potential target. Spark immediately removed her name and that of her organization from our website, but as Spark members and women around the world unite and participate in various International Women’s Day celebrations, events in Zimbabwe remind us that there is still significant progress to be made.

Here is what happened yesterday in Zimbabwe:

In Bulawayo, police interrupted meetings and marches celebrating International Women’s Day. They detained 16 members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, despite a court order permitting their peaceful demonstration, and a speaker at the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’ meeting in the suburbs of the city.  Although the Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khuphe reprimanded police for these actions, contentious arrests like these have populated Zimbabwean headlines for weeks.

In late February, President Robert Mugabe’s police forces interrupted an International Socialist Organization meeting and arrested 45 students, trade unionists and activists for watching BBC and Al Jazeera reports on the protests in Egypt and Tunisia.  The individuals (11 female and 34 male) were arrested on the suspicion of plotting to overthrow the Mugabe government. 39 were released on Monday, but the remaining 6 (1 female and 5 male) now face treason charges in the High Court, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The New York Times reports: “As Mr. Mugabe’s party pushes for elections this year in a drive to reclaim sole power, human rights groups have warned that the police and youth militia aligned with Mr. Mugabe’s party have intensified harassment, beatings and arrests of Mr. Mugabe’s political opponents”.

Such police behavior is alarming and generates particular concern for Zimbabwean women. Women’s Enews reported yesterday on a study outlining the treatment of Zimbabwean women protesters that 78% reported political threats, 64% reported degrading treatment, 42% reported torture and sexual abuse and 33% reported torture.

As we observe International Women’s Day throughout the month of March, we cannot ignore the potential implications of these detentions and must continue to fight for and protect women’s rights – including the basic human right to peaceful demonstration.

Please join Spark in an intimate discussion related to these recent events at its upcoming Speaker Series on March 19, 2011. Our speaker is the founder of a non-violent human rights movement in Zimbabwe and is at the forefront of the struggle for peace and human rights for women and all Zimbabweans.