A landlocked country nestled between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers in southeast Africa, Zimbabwe is renowned for its majestic landscapes—including Victoria Falls in the northwest and mountainous terrain to the east—as well as diverse flora and fauna found throughout its many parks and protected areas.
Zimbabwe’s land, which is fertile and rich in minerals, is an integral part of the country’s cultural identity and has long united the people who live there; of the country’s approximately 16 million people, at least 60 percent live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for livelihoods. Zimbabwe also boasts one of the highest literacy rates in Africa.
You and other impressive members of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network have been instrumental in creating a bright future for Zimbabwe. In recognition of your hard work, Zimbabwe is the YALI Network #CountryoftheWeek!
Keep reading for four inspiring stories of YALI Network members who are helping improve the lives of fellow community members, addressing gender-based violence, encouraging civic engagement, and empowering young women throughout Zimbabwe.
Improve the lives of fellow community members
In Triangle in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo region, YALI Network member Karen Nhari is an inspiring leader who is working tirelessly to improve the lives of her fellow community members.
In 2015, Karen and a friend founded a community-based initiative called “Holding Hands in Africa” with the aim of uniting people from across their community to pool resources and share ideas to help people. Since the project’s inception, Karen has led many successful charitable projects, including an “Empower Her” initiative, which provides educational assistance to former child brides. She also spearheaded the “Peaceful Sleep” project, which provided bedding to 38 residents at a home for the elderly, and organized a successful toiletry and food drive for local orphanages.
Karen says YALI Network Online Courses like Strategies for Personal Growth and Development and resources like the Skill Building for Girls Advocacy discussion guide were extremely helpful as she implemented these projects, which greatly impacted not just the beneficiaries, but everyone who participated.
“The work we’ve been doing has empowered people in our community, and has helped them gain access to they did not previously possess,” says Karen. “But most importantly, it has brought together individuals who want to help others but have limited time and financial resources. We’ve enabled them to make an impact together.”
Addressing gender-based violence
As the director of the Girls and Women Empowerment Network Trust (GWEN) in Harare, Kumbirai Kahiya promotes important dialogue about gender-based violence (GBV) in order to empower adolescent girls and young women. Kumbirai leads discussions at a recurring community event called the “Sister-Sister Circle,” which she describes as “an open and safe platform where adolescent girls and women can meet and discuss the different issues affecting them, and come up with practical solutions.”
Kumbirai’s work has been especially inspired by the YALI Network, which has provided resources that have proved useful in her work with GWEN. “I have completed 8 YALI Network Online Courses, and my work with GWEN is guided by the YALI modules,” she says. “I am happy GWEN and my community is benefiting from YALI.”
By encouraging community dialogues, Kumbirai says, she’s hopeful that girls and women will have the support and courage they need to fight and end GBV. “The highlight of GWEN, for me, is being able to motivate young girls and women to challenge Gender-Based Violence and promote peaceful existence for everyone.”
Encouraging civic engagement
After completing six YALI Network Online Courses, YALI Network member Jabson Pedzai acted on his resolve to become a community leader. “I have been [an] active member of society [concerned with] community [issues] since secondary school,” he says. “The YALI courses enlightened me, and provided me with clearer goals.”
Now, as a local leader, Jabson has engaged diverse communities throughout Masvingo around a multitude of issues in order to “find solutions to [issues] affecting the community and province at large.” He has also worked with various NGOs that have supported his community projects. One project in particular entailed training local volunteers to help local youth to register to vote and participate in Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections. Jabson said, “Youth constitute 50 percent of the population in Zimbabwe, so I started a motivational push to help them become civically engaged.”
In addition, Jabson has hosted an extraordinary ten #YALILearns events focused on a range of topics, including mitigating violence against women and children, HIV and AIDS education, climate change, and civic engagement.
While Jabson knows that there “is still a lot to learn and still much more work to be done” in his community, he says that he feels hopeful and encouraged that he can “tackle the challenges” in Masvingo with the support of the YALI Network behind him.
Empowering young women
A passionate social worker currently pursuing a BSc Honours Degree in Sociology and Gender Studies at Women’s University, YALI Network member Takudzwa Ndirwo Muvingi is a champion for public health and women’s rights in Zimbabwe and beyond.
One of Takudzwa’s main passions is cancer awareness and prevention. Last year, he organized a successful breast cancer awareness campaign at Belvedere Technical Teachers College in Harare, which reached 600 young people. This year, he organized an awareness campaign for national cancer prevention month that used public lectures to educate more than 1,000 people at local institutions.
Takudzwa is also deeply committed to empowering young girls and women in rural areas through increased access to sanitary wear, which he notes is a significant challenge. That’s why he organized a “Pad for Life” campaign that donates sanitary pads to schools in Murehwa and Chikwaka. This month alone, the campaign will reach almost 300 more girls from Chabwino Secondary School.
The campaign is already improving the lives of young women in rural regions, according to Takudzwa. “People tend to ignore the problems of young girls and women living in rural areas, and some of these girls have to resort to using traditional methods such as cloth, banana leaves, or even cow dung [during their periods],” he says. “The major highlight of the [Pad for Life] campaign, which was the first campaign that I worked on to help girls in rural areas, was that even the village’s chief promised to support initiatives to help empower young girls.”