Scholar and Self-Declared ‘Societal Renegade’ Breaks New Ground for Zimbabwean Girls
International Women's Day 2018
In celebration of International Women’s Day and the African Women’s Leadership Conference at Wellesley College, Scholars explain how gender has shaped their leadership journeys. Tanyaradzwa Chinyukwi studies Agricultural Engineering and Natural Resource Management. She is a Scholar in the Program at EARTH University.
I am a child of a societal renegade and the apple did not fall far from the tree. I was raised by a strong independent widowed woman who defied odds to get my family educated.
However, the community believed in female inferiority to the extent that STEM courses were not taken by girls at my school. I disregarded these rules, passed the courses and excelled in the traditionally male field of science. Having broken down barriers, I realized my victory was not personal — it was a victory for all women.
Having benefited from the spoils of a war my mother unconsciously started against female subjugation, I am now convinced of the centrality of female empowerment to economic and social development. I was driven to create a campaign aimed at advocating for the education of girls. The Zimbabwean economic crisis has seen girls as young as nine years old being forced to drop out of school and engage in commercial sex work to fend for their families while others get married at a young age. This campaign seeks to ensure that the girl child is taken to school — where she belongs.
Through this campaign, I have been recognized as one of the 2016 Global Campaign Winners for the Millennium Campus Network, and part of the Global Gender Network, a platform which aims to pool together resources to tackle gender inequality in communities. I also had the opportunity to lead webinars on gender equality while influencing my peers to imagine and advocate for solutions.
The girl child education drive has also morphed into a holistic movement helping and teaching girls in other areas such as reproductive health. This had a tremendous effect on body confidence especially in a society which abhors female anatomical realities like menstruation. It has also empowered girls to take control of their bodies and be able to say no to unwarranted sexual advances.
Economically disadvantaged women dependent on agriculture walk for long distances to make their sales in highly competitive markets for very low prices. Results are never commensurate with efforts; and sex work and child labor end up as the only yielding alternatives. To solve this rising issue, my partners and I started ZAZI Growers’ Network — a social venture aimed at empowering vulnerable women to become competitive in the agricultural sector. Through mentorship programs, training and workshops, ZAZI Growers’ Network will empower women with technical agricultural skills to improve quality and use the network’s collective power to access new markets.
This is just the first lap of my journey to advocating for women and girls and I hope to continue breaking new grounds in attaining gender equality in Zimbabwe.
Meet Tanyaradzwa Chinyukwi
Tanyaradzwa’s story is part of a series for International Women’s Day that is highlighting stories from Mastercard Foundation Scholars about how gender has shaped their leadership journeys. Continue reading more posts in the series here.