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3184Zimbabwe and Malawi

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  • Weber
    Jun 1, 2002
      3 women activists from Zimbabwe were in Merced for a women's civic education exchange last week.  Got to spend a morning with them.  It was interesting to hear, first hand, their perspective on the political turmoil.
      The women are....
      From Harare, the Programmes Coordinator  for    Women in Politics Support Unit  ...forced a reelection after questioning the validity of an election where their woman candidate lost to a government supported candidate. 
      From Bulawayo, the Gender and Youth Officer for     National Constitutional Assembly  ...drew up the constitutional revision that the government opposed in 2000 kicking off the turmoil.
      From Harare, a Board Member and the Projects Coordinator for    Foundation for Democracy in Zimbabwe 
      You can, of course, tell by the names of their organizations that they're now very reluctant to meet as groups.  There is no chance of public gathering for almost any reason.  The press is no longer free. People are often detained without stated reason in unknown places for at least 7 days.  Of course, thanks to Christine Chumbler, we all know this but not many of the other people I know here are even aware that Zimbabwe has problems...and these are civicly active and involved people who read newspapers.  My friends who do seem to know are British and South African and have sources other than West Coast newspapers...how are the East Coast papers in covering Africa news?  (But, yesterday there was a picture accompanying an article about Africa famine in our Merced Sun-Star showing a line of women with babies sitting on the floor waiting to be seen at Kamuzu (renamed?)Central Hospital in Lilongwe.)  
      The organizations these women work with are losing NGO money, their only source of funding, as NGO's pull out of the country.  Their feeling about sanctions is...those in power who have money go to South Africa for whatever they need while the ordinary Zimbabwean is the one who goes without the affected commodities.  Harare and other cities are losing the struggle of dealing with the thousands of people that are migrating in from the rural areas because of the violence there.  Schools, housing, sanitation and all infrastructure is strained way beyond capacity. 
      The women were overwhelmed when they attended our Merced City Council meeting where ordinary citizens were allowed to comment on , ask questions about and even oppose council actions. 
      Last Friday we had a brief visit with our host family's daughter (our host sister?) in Berkeley.  She's getting her MBA at Univ. of Mass. but came out from Boston with a friend to see his cousin graduate in theology from U. C. Berkeley.  He's from Tanzania and is now returning there to be ordained a Catholic priest.  We had lunch with them and two other friends of theirs...one from Zambia the other also from Tanzania, I think.  In "chatting" with Dingase  was as if we had been sitting around the dinner table 8 months ago instead of 8 years.  There were so many "do you remembers"  and we all 3 did remember.  It was great!     Cathy