Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

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The people, the faces, the stories – 50 years of defending rights

Women of Zimbabwe Arise

Jenni Williams from WOZA visits Amnesty International’s headquarters in London, UK, September 2007.

© Amnesty International

"I believe that the phone calls to the police in Zimbabwe during my arrest saved me from torture and rape."

Jenni Williams, co-founder of WOZA


The activists from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) are often arrested and detained for taking part in peaceful protests. Amnesty International members’ persistent protests have made the police think twice about ill-treating the women in custody.

  • By bombarding police stations with faxes and calls, our members are helping these Zimbabwean activists to continue their struggle.

The women of WOZA have been repeatedly arrested since 2003 for peacefully demonstrating against Zimbabwe’s worsening social, economic, and human rights situation. They are held in overcrowded cells for anything from a few hours to several days. Police officers have threatened and assaulted them, and prevented them from talking to their lawyers.

Swamped with calls

When someone from WOZA is arrested, Amnesty International members immediately bombard the police stations where the women are held with demands to release them. This approach is very effective: "Phoning the police, faxing a protest, signing a postcard – all these things make a difference because they send a clear message," says WOZA’s co-founder, Jenni Williams.

"I believe that the phone calls to the police during my arrest saved me from torture and rape. The police station was so swamped with calls that they stopped picking up the phone." WOZA activists say police have told them to "tell your Amnesty friends that we did not ill-treat you".

"Someone is shouting for me"

"Amnesty International is our big sister," says Jenni Williams. "When I’m in prison, if I know that someone, my big sister, is shouting for me, telling people about me, then I feel less distressed, less frightened and less alone. When we began WOZA as a non-violent civil disobedience movement, people thought we were crazy. Civil society didn't want to engage at all before Amnesty International started writing about us. It helped us arrive as human rights defenders."

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For over 50 years we have been fighting for freedom of expression. The world has changed, but violence and imprisonment are still used to silence people who defend human rights and criticize the powerful. By calling on millions of activists and supporters worldwide, we can jam the fax machines of governments and send them a message they can’t ignore. Speak out against repression – deliver a message directly into the hands of those in power.
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