Rights Fest: Artistes, CSOs come together

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A four day fete of music, dance, poetry, all of it about various facets of human rights.
This was the first of its kind, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Festival, hosted by Edzai Isu Trust from 10 to 13 December.

And more interesting was the venue.

An old disused foot bridge at Machipisa Shopping Centre in the heart of the low class suburb of Highfields is where everyone gathered for the festival, which sought to bring together artistes and human rights actors in a collaborative efforts to educate and entertain the hundreds that turned up for the event each day.

Edzai Isu has over the past years, turned the foot bridge – which had been turned into a den of criminals and drug abusers – into an arts hub and the organisation regularly hosts open air and free music dance and theatre activities there.

Organisations such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Go Zim, Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transormation, Transparency International Zimbabwe and Economic Justice for Women Project, among others, were part of the event and used the platform to raise awareness on various facets of human rights.

The Festival is the brainchild of award winning transformative artist and social activist Tafadzwa Muzondo whose plays on a range of issues have received acclaim locally and internationally.

Some of the plays include “No Voice No Choice” which was banned by the board of censors in 2012 for being politically incorrect as well as “All Systems Out Of Order” which highlighted the impact of corruption on human rights.

Critical post performance discussions and exhibitions by relevant civic society organizations effectively engaged rights holders with major highlights of the program being streamed live on our social media platforms and other partner platforms like Go Zim, Newsday & CORAH reaching over 50 000 rights holders and duty bearers cumulatively.

ZHRF cumulatively engaged up to 4 000 rights holders directly (considering those that went straight to information desks or left before being counted). These women and youth received information and interventions regarding their rights from partner civic society organizations like Go Zim, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HR Forum), Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), Economic Justice for Women Project (EJWP), Girls & Women Empowerment Network (GWEN), Community Water Alliance (CWA), Harare Metropolitan Residents Forum (HAMREF) and Vendors Initiative for Social & Economic Transformation (VISET), and Community Radio Harare (CORAH). The festival successfully engaged and/or got the attention of national and local government agencies like National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts & Recreation and Harare City Council.

The theme of the inaugural festival was “AFTER”, which is an abbreviation for Arts Fostering Total Enforcement of Rights and also meant AFTER all the bickering and sloganeering, citizens need their rights to be respected not trampled on. ZHRF became a creative rallying point in the mission to improve accountable, democratic governance that serves an engaged citizenry. As much as the festival touched on a range of human rights, this year we focused on the right of citizens to participate in governance particularly in the area of social and economic development.

The festival featured music performances from Tendai Dembo, Kireni Zulu, Elsie Zulu (a talented six year old singer), Sasha &Talking Guitars, MaestroweMhanda & TruBantu, theatre from community groups like Zvido Zvevanhu Arts Ensemble, Masters of Dance & Drama, New Generation Youth Club and Applied Mediapreneurs, dance from Surprise Queens, Sounds Movers and Sky Boyz, with spoken word from Nyanduri Nyandoro and RasBhudha.