November 23rd, 2009
10:53 AM ET
10 years ago

White House ceremony to honor Zimbabwean women's rights activists

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama will speak at a White House ceremony Monday honoring a Zimbabwean women's rights group, which will receive this year's Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

The award will be presented to Magodonga Mahlangu and her organization, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) by Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's widow.

Zimbabwe's political turmoil in recent years has often overshadowed human rights issues in the southern African country. Mahlangu has been credited for her relentless struggle to organize peaceful protests that spotlight injustices faced by the women of Zimbabwe.

As a result, she has been arrested more than 30 times.

"I feel both great excitement for the recognition of my work with WOZA and sadness because although my work has gained recognition internationally, in my own country I have been labeled an enemy of the state," said Mahlangu in a news release from the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights.

The award will include a cash prize of $30,000, as well as ongoing legal, advocacy and technical support through a partnership with the RFK Center, according to the news release.

"Now I know I am not alone, the world is watching and one day Zimbabwe shall be a normal society - with the determination of the members of WOZA, anything is possible," Mahlangu said.

WOZA founder Jenni Williams will also be present at Monday's ceremony to accept the award on behalf of the grassroots movement which has over 60,000 members in Zimbabwe. The organization, founded in 2002, has staged more than 100 peaceful marches to protest the treatment of women in Zimbabwe, as well as other human rights issues.

"In a country torn by violence and economic ruin, Magodonga Mahlangu and WOZA provide a desperately needed voice for the people of Zimbabwe and we were proud to select her and her organization for this prestigious award," said Gay McDougall, the United Nation's Independent Expert on Minority Issues and one of the five human rights experts who selected this year's award winner.

According to the RFK Center, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award honors "courageous and innovative human rights defenders throughout the world who stand up against injustice, often at great personal risk."

The award was established in 1984.

In addition to highlighting the work of WOZA, Monday's ceremony will also feature a tribute to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's brother, who died in August.

Filed under: White House
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Terry from West Texas

    I support women's rights as do all rational people. Our willingness to accommodate the widespread oppression of women by Muslims is disgraceful. Muslims will one day accept their women as equals in their communities, but they need a lot of pushing from those outside the Islamic community as well as from those inside it.

    The ownership and abuse of women by men is an ancient custom. It is as old as humankind. It is well past time that we get rid of it.

    November 23, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  2. ThinkAgain

    Now here is a politically active woman with real courage and determination, risking her life for the betterment of her country and her people. THIS is what it means to truly "go rogue."

    Congratulations, Ms. Mahlangu! I wish you and your organization continued success. God bless you all!

    November 23, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  3. Tony -- Nevada -- Independent

    It's great that she is popular among hard core Republicans but without Independents and conservative Democrats voting for her she has no chance of winning the Whitehouse in 2012. Most Americans have an unfavorable opinion of her. She was on the losing ticket in 2008 so she is tainted. She quit her job as Governor and now she is touring the country talking about her book. Her family problems are a distracter. Palin's nomination as the Republican candidate in 2012 would result in another Obama victory which would not only be very sad but very bad for the country.

    November 23, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  4. Anonymous

    The first Congress was right in the checks put in place, saying they had no faith in common people making the right choice for the highest office still holds true today. Palin and the others are clowns.

    November 23, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. Joe

    Zimbabwean Women's rights activists, I never heard of them. I have been following news for years, I never heard of WOZA. I heard of Sen. Edward Kennedy, but not the WOZA. In Africa there are more bad guys than good guys. Usualy the good guys don't last too long, so that is a waist of time and tribute to a lost cause. The White House needs to go after the bad guys.

    November 23, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  6. Coincidences all around

    Odd, G. W. Bush did the same thing but CNN failed to mention that.

    That's odd...

    November 23, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  7. strong

    Finally, some uplifting and exciting news from Zimbabwe. I was getting worried.

    November 23, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  8. The people of faith believe God made all creation, seen and unseen. We believe God chose to walk the earth as one of us named Jesus 'Jehovah, the Lord is Salvation' absorbed the Holy Sprit became the Christ, The Annointed ONe to tell of God's love and to

    I am so happy to see this,,,,Praise God for the voice of woman who will not just sit by and let the world ignore....Bless her.

    November 23, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. maybe we should arm the women of Africa

    obviously the men cannot rule Africa effectively

    maybe start a women's army over there and supply them with bazookas and AK47s

    November 23, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  10. Enough

    This president can't seem to do anything for the AMERICAN know, the country he represents, the people who elected him. Obama seems pretty Anti American, he always feels he has to apologize for us.

    November 23, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |