Written By: Dzikamai Bere, 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumnus

On 22 and 23 May 2018, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) launched the groundbreaking report, the 2017 State of Human Rights Report in Harare. The report was a fruit of the efforts of the research team that I lead at the Forum. But what made this report special for me was the collaboration by many Mandela Washington Fellows (across cohorts) behind the scenes, which saw the birth of Zimbabwe’s first locally produced comprehensive national human rights appraisal.

I saw value in working with fellows because from our interactions, I saw unparalleled passion and creativity. Each time I engaged with each of the fellows, who worked on the report outside my normal work schedule, it ceased to feel like work but became simply a passion. One by one, with no prompting, the fellows came in and made significant contribution to the report that I would never have pulled on my own.

The report brings together the experiences of 22 human rights organisations operating in Zimbabwe, whose efforts are grounded in the experiences of the victims and survivors of human rights violations. It covers 9 key human rights themes including all security of persons, fundamental freedoms, equality and non-discrimination, environmental and property rights, transparency and accountability, access to justice, transitional justice, business and human rights as well as happiness, human welfare and prosperity. It goes beyond just statistics into deeper policy analysis and brings out the voices of the victims through the QR Codes that unlock testimonies of the survivors, enhancing the credibility of the reports and revealing the real lives of the people behind our human rights work.

All this was made possible by the collaboration of talented Mandela Washington Fellows who worked with me to ensure that we deliver to the Zimbabwe a powerful tool for national introspection.

Speaking at the pre-launch of event hosted by the Forum on 22 May, the Chairperson of the Forum and torture survivor, Ms. Jestina Mukoko, said the report allows us a window into the hardly talked about ugly truths of our society.

“It allows us to walk you through the house we have built and see the victims that we have hidden in this house.” said Mukoko.

True, the report is brutal with honesty and candid in truth. 39 media practitioners attended the pre-launch event. The actual launch was attended by 130 participants from government, development partners, independent commissions, civil society and ordinary citizens.

I am indebted to the following Mandela Washington Fellows who partnered with me in making this historic adventure a success.

  • Abel Dzobo – who coordinated media and communications portfolio and also contributed the section on Happiness, Prosperity and Human Welfare
  • Phil Chad – Design & Layout under tight deadlines
  • Agnes Chindimba, Tapiwa Gwen and Abraham Mateta who contributed content on Disability Inclusion and Minority Rights Protection
  • Gilmore Moyo coordinated the social media campaign
  • Wadzai Mangoma who featured in one of the videos
  • John Mokwetsi coordinated social media campaign

Dzikamai Bere is the Head of Research at the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Coordinator of the National Transitional Justice Working Group. He is a 2017 Presidential Precinct Mandela Washington Fellow.

The report is available here: https://goo.gl/TTeqXQ