By Leroy Dzenga
Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), a non-profit organisation providing women with access to legal resources and services, recently marked its silver jubilee.
The organisation, which has been in existence since 1992, has seen most of its early members rising through the ranks to occupy key roles in the country’s judicial system.
At the organisation’s anniversary celebrations, one of the founding members now Deputy Chief Justice, Elizabeth Gwaunza recounted their humble beginnings.
“We used to meet on Saturdays in my office when I was still at WILSA, we were a group of young women with a common goal.
“We wanted to create an organisation that helped Zimbabwean women to have access to the Judiciary and we were determined to see the dream come to life,” she said.
“During the early days it was not easy, there was no funding and sometimes members would chip in with their personal finances to help out.
“It took us quite some time to get permanent staff, those who were with us in the early days it was because they believed in the vision more than it was for the many.”
She said their first officers were in Harare’s Highfield suburb, a sign of humble beginnings.
“I am proud that the organisation is expanding to other places, I recently visited ZWLA offices in Bulawayo and was impressed with what I saw,” said Deputy Chief Justice Gwaunza.
Community members who have benefited from their services gave testimonials of how the legal help they received from the organisation over the years.
According to ZWLA, they now handle about 30 cases on a one-on-one basis daily.
ZWLA has played part in the growth of many female legal minds in Zimbabwe who have been constantly looking at ways the law can be improved to empower women.
The enactment of pieces of legislation like the Domestic Violence Act saw significant contributions from the ZWLA.
Some of the notable lawyers who were present at the organisation’s inception include Mrs Virginia Mudimu, Mrs Sara Moyo and Mrs Catherine Chitiyo-Msipa, Mrs Diana Mandaza, the late Ms Janet Shava, Justice Rita Makarau who now sits on the constitutional court bench, Dr Amy Tsanga and Professor Julie Stewart among others.