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"The promise has been betrayed" - Anti-Violence Chorus on International Women's Day

As the world commemorates the annual International Women's Day this Friday, March 8, 2013 under the theme "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women" - calls for the eradication of violence against women reached a crescendo.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement condemning this global vice, while affirming the international organisation's commitment to combat violence against women in every part of the world.

"As we commemorate International Women's Day, we must look back on a year of shocking crimes of violence against women and girls and ask ourselves how to usher in a better future," said Ki-Moon.

Grace Chirenje, the director of Zimbabwe Young Women Network for Peace Building (ZYWNP) and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) vice- chairperson, affirmed it was high time Zimbabweans stopped giving lip service in dealing with the violence perpetrated against women.

"It is high time the widespread condemnation of the violence gave birth to serious commitment, political will and unequivocal action," she said.

Women in Zimbabwe continue to fall in the path of what is considered as state-led harassment.

On the eve of the worldwide commemorations on Thursday and in an apparent case of sailing against the tide, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) made a public announcement that they were hunting down and seeking to apprehend one of the female frontrunners in the struggle to combat violence in the country.

Human rights defender and Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) Director, Jestina Mukoko, handed herself into police custody in Harare this morning in the company of her lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa at a time when Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Women's Day.

Although she has since been released into the custody of her lawyers, the televised announcement that appeared on the national broadcaster made personally by the Police Commissioner, Augustine Chihuri inflicted harm upon her dignity by conveying the malicious and unfounded insinuation that she was an outlaw on the run.

Mukoko went through the trauma of being abducted by 15 armed men at her home in Norton in December 3, 2008 and was brought before the courts a few days before Christmas Day following International Community outrage and the subsequent issuance of a High Court directive which ordered the Zimbabwe Republic Police to look for her.

In what can pass for resurgent security forces interest in Mukoko's work, the ZPP offices in Harare and Masvingo were raided by police who confiscated important files and documents in February 2013 triggering this latest harassment.

Beauty Maisiri, a rural Zimbabwean woman, who was in previous years raped by political militia, a few weeks ago, lost her 12-year-old boy child to a house fire which gutted their home suspected to have been caused by political arsonists in Headlands, Manicaland. Her husband is an MDC-T local official.

In her moment of bereavement, Maisiri reportedly told independent media she suspected that her life was endangered after unidentified people had allegedly been haunting the village purportedly looking for her in unmarked vehicles.

Another Zimbabwean woman and human rights defender, Cynthia Manjoro, the ZIMRIGHTS Programs Officer spent over seven months in prison in 2012, on doubted charges of murdering a police officer with 28 others in Harare's Glenview suburb.

Commenting on the international theme, "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women", Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Gender Advocacy Committee Chairperson, Gloria Chishambwa said:

"Of course there are improvements in other areas such as the envisaged new constitution which uplifts women. However, on political violence and harassment the 'promise' has been betrayed."

UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, in her message, after acknowledging positive momentum said:

"But I am outraged because women and girls continue to suffer high levels of discrimination, violence, and exclusion. They are routinely blamed and made to feel shame for the violence committed against them, and they too often search in vain for justice.

She delivered the message in a statement, expressing hope for a better day free of violence against women.

"All around the world, our voices are rising, and silence and indifference are declining. Change is possible. And change is happening."

This year's International Women's Day coincides with the focus on ending violence against women at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which is the annual gathering where countries agree on frameworks to address critical gender-related issues.

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