Do women really matter?

Over the past two years, Margot Wallström, a Swedish politician with a long history of defending women’s rights, has served as the United Nations Secretary-General’s first Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. During her tenure, in December 2010, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1960, which put in place the tools for more systematic monitoring and reporting of sexual violence, and for the identification of perpetrators.

Margot Wallstrom

Ms Wallström was interviewed by the UN News Centre on the eve of her departure early this month (June) from her post; she was asked what affected or impressed her the most during her term. In response she said “All these amazing women. They pick up their lives, they go on. They’re very often discriminated against. They live with violence and rapes. At the same time, they contribute so much and they have to be given a voice and influence. Without that, there cannot be a true democracy and there cannot be peace without giving women peace. They are also my biggest inspiration and hope.”

RAU has just released a report entitled “Do we really matter? Women’s voices on politics, participation, and violence”, based on focus group discussions held over several weeks. The purpose of the discussions was to talk about political violence against women in light of the imminent elections in Zimbabwe. Although Margot Wallström never came to Zimbabwe during her term as the Special Representative, nor met the women in these focus groups (nor the many women we have worked with over the years), her words resonated with me, and I felt she was talking about the Zimbabwean women. We do not recognise or acknowledge the roles that women play in our society, living with extreme violence and discrimination, yet they pick themselves up continue with their lives.  If we do not address political violence against women, particularly sexual violence we cannot say we live in a peaceful democratic society.

This report is a contribution to ensure that the women of Zimbabwe are given a voice; my hope is the long arm of the law will catch up with the perpetrators and that people will think twice before planning, organising, inciting or perpetrating violence against women during the referendum and any future elections.

Read the full report at


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