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“When they are doing the most difficult things, we want to let them know that we stand in solidarity with WOZA. This is about the people,” said Monika Kalra Varma, human rights director at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Last year, Ms. Williams and Ms. Mahlangu received a human rights award from rights watchdog Amnesty International in recognition of WOZA’s work.

WOZA has about 75,000 members, almost all of them women. About 3,000 of its members have been arrested in the past seven years.

“And yet they keep doing it. That is an incredibly powerful statement to an oppressive regime,” said Tracy Leigh Doig, another member of WOZA.

Ms. Mahlangu and Ms. Williams have each been arrested more than 30 times. Their latest arrest was in October 2008 after a demonstration. They stayed three weeks in a prison near Bulawayo, making multiple appearances in court only to have their case postponed each time. They are still waiting for the court to set a trial date, perhaps with their next scheduled appearance on Dec. 7.

Zimbabwean law allows police to detain prisoners for 48 hours before taking them to court.

Ms. Doig said this authority is often abused. WOZA asks people in Zimbabwe and abroad to call police stations and send letters to the attorney general to put pressure on them to release people who are arrested after demonstrating. “It freaks them out,” she said.

Once the breadbasket of Africa, the country has been marred by hyperinflation, sending the prices for basic items such as bread to trillions of Zimbabwean dollars.

Zimbabwe abandoned its currency in March, and it now conducts business with the U.S. dollar or South African rand. As a result, food has returned to empty store shelves.

But Ms. Williams said she is skeptical that economic stability will last.

“There is food on the shelves. You can see some aspects of business pick up, but it is not sustainable if it does not come with economic reform,” she said.

WOZA asks its members to come to demonstrations prepared for jail, to bring any medication and leave babies at home.

Prisoners do not have access to food or sanitation during their stay in police stations.

Ms. Williams recalled the night of parliamentary elections in March 2005, when 265 people were arrested after a prayer vigil, including more than 30 babies. Prisoners, she said, were “denied food and water the whole night.”

“The babies, crying out of hunger, that was something else. They released the mothers the next day at noon.”

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