With temperatures consistently around 30 degrees even in January, Zimbabwe is not somewhere you might expect a cold sweat to break out.
But all too often it does, trickling down the neck of those who know their lives will never be the same again after the next few moments.
Women and girls
Up to 10% of Zimbabwean women and girls have experienced this cold sweat - induced by a man barging through the door of their home or grabbing them in the street, followed closely by that awful realisation that this is going to be politically motivated physical violence, rape even, by men seeking to intimidate people, to swing a vote in an election or to silence opposition from that family or community.
Human rights advocates
The cold sweat can surprise charity and human rights workers at their office, or on the street, as they’re dragged off to prison in order to silence courageous individuals. These are mostly Zimbabweans who are advocating respect for human rights, an end to corruption or are in favour of policies that will give priority to Zimbabweans with the least power and least wealth.
Community spirit shines through
I hesitate to report bleak realities from Africa because the media are specialists at that already, but Progressio’s work in solidarity with courageous Zimbabweans who speak out means there are many amazing examples of community activities tackling poverty and protecting the environment, to balance out these stories of negative realities.
Change is possible
In nearby Malawi the degree of freedom has shifted dramatically in recent months since Mrs Joyce Banda came into power. The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in Malawi, led by Malawian Peter Chinoko (pictured above), act with more confidence and Malawian people are now able to demonstrate unharmed.
18 months ago at a demonstration 20 people were killed for speaking out about government action that was exacerbating extreme poverty. Last week citizens voiced similar concerns without reprisals!
18 months ago Peter was at home with his 9 year old daughter when the vigilantes arrived and smashed his windows with machetes. But he hasn’t stopped speaking out inspired by his Catholic social teaching that requires us to give priority to those with least power and least wealth.
We can create accountability – even at a low level. I saw it in action during my visit to both Zimbabwe and Malawi and read about it in the progress reports from Progressio’s partnerships in both countries.
Surely such courage deserves a show of solidarity in our campaigning, a place in your prayers or a little financial contribution to strengthen Progressio’s support of partner organisations like CCJP.
Please walk in solidarity with and support the girls who live in fear, the lawyers who speak up and all other innocent courageous people we work with because there is always hope. Turnarounds and recovery from abuse are possible.
A little help? No sweat!
Photo shows Peter Chinoko, the Diocesan Secretary for CCJP in Lilongwe, Malawi. (Photo © Progressio)