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Zimbabwean Women Making An Impact!

There is an African axiom “Musha Mukadzi”, which literally means that a woman is the anchor and pivot of any home. By extension, communities...

There is an African axiom “Musha Mukadzi”, which literally means that a woman is the anchor and pivot of any home.

By extension, communities, nations and the world are largely built by women — an enormous responsibility that starts with the role they play in conceiving and raising their children.

Throughout history, there have been great lady warriors who have fought for, defended and spectacularly ruled their kingdoms, even though little credit is given to them.

These legendary women include Artemisia, who was the 5th century BCE Queen of Halicarnassus — a kingdom that exists in modern-day Turkey.

Artemisia left an indelible mark on history, and so did Joan of Arc, a legendary female warrior and Roman Catholic saint who ended the Siege of Orleans in nine days.

This illustrious list includes Trieu Thi Trinth, Nakano Takeko, Tomoe Gozen, Grace O’Malley, Lozen and Queen Zenobia, amongst others.

Locally, women have carved their names in annals of history.

The name Mbuya Nehanda dwarfs all the others who participated in the First Chimurenga (or uprising) against the British South Africa Company’s colonisation of Zimbabwe in 1889.

While Mbuya Nehanda was eventually captured and executed for the murder of native commissioner Henry Hawkins Pollard in 1896, the legend of Mbuya Nehanda’s spirit would go on to inspire the guerrilla war against British colonial rule in 1972, ending with Zimbabwe’s independence in April 1980.

The war of independence itself had its own women whose contributions to the liberation struggle remain an inspiration to current and future generations, among them Joice “Teurai Ropa” Nhongo, Naomi Nhiwatiwa, Fay Chung (who fought at the rear of the war), Freedom Nyamubaya, Margaret Dongo, Ruvimbo Mejeni and Sally Mugabe.

More and more, we have seen women making waves as industry giants; conquering uncharted waters, defying the odds and carving their places next to men.

Today we have many women sitting at the helm of important, multi-million dollar corporates and making it count, and yet we rarely celebrate them.

Perhaps a good start to celebrate them has been the global effort that set aside March 8 each year International Women’s Day and the dedication of the whole of March as Women’s Month as part of global efforts to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

It is, therefore, pleasing to note that International Women’s Day, which has been celebrated for more than a century now, is getting bigger and better by the year as women continuously strive to break the glass ceiling in different aspects of life.

This year’s theme “#ChooseToChallenge” aptly captures what women have been doing throughout the centuries, challenging impediments and bottlenecks created by the male-dominated society to block their ascension to the top.

In several sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy, women continue to excel, although much needs to be done, especially in mining, where most women remain on the peripheries of the resource sector. Tellingly, women make up just 10 percent of artisanal and small-scale miners.

Notwithstanding, it is encouraging to see big-hitters who have defied the huge odds stacked against women in the mining sector.

One such illustrious woman is Ms Elizabeth Nerwande, a towering figure who was last year re-elected unopposed to serve another term as the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe president.

Such a feat, in a male-dominated industry, shows that she is indeed made of sterner stuff.

She made a name for herself at the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe and cemented her status in the corporate world at ZimTrade, during which period she got inspiration to form Tayana, which focuses on personal and corporate image branding as well as management.

One of Ms Nerwande’s guiding principles is that in order to achieve success in life, one must become worthwhile within themselves, and in their development.

“Remember, the most meaningful victory we win is over ourselves. Above all, be disciplined. Be focused. Be committed and take responsibility,” she would always counsel.

“Ms Liz”, as she is popularly known, takes mentoring other women seriously. In her book to be released soon, Tendai Madondo says: “I am a living testimony of Liz’s mentorship — you cannot be around her and remain the same.”

At the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe, Ms Nerwande is part of global influencers actively encouraging more women to get on board. In one of her interviews, she made the point that women have really never clamoured for special treatment in the workplace, but rather for recognition for their strengths and expertise.

When it comes to aviation, once upon a time, all that a normal girl could aspire for was to be an air hostess. Captain Chipo Matimba changed this when she became the first female combat pilot in 1999.

She continues to soar in her career.

Captain Matimba joined the Air Force of Zimbabwe just after her high school to her family’s disapproval. Though military training was tough, she was the only woman in her class to complete and became a combat pilot.

Her story inspired many young girls, including the country’s first and only fighter jet pilot, Flight Lieutenant Bosha, whom she still mentors today.

What makes Matimba’s story even more interesting is that the fabled jet pilot was raised by a widowed tailor, who looked after six children on her own.

Everyday there are thousands of single women across the world who risk their lives just to put food on the table for the little ones.

These unsung heroines, mothers of world leaders and innovators are the ones celebrated during Women’s Day and Women’s Month.

In many companies, women are being thrust into key managerial and decision-making positions. Mrs Chipo Mtasa has been steering the ship commendably at TelOne for a while now.

She inherited the parastatal when it was on the verge of being a white elephant due to changes in technology, but has managed to keep the ship sailing beautifully by embracing the ever-changing ICT landscape to stay innovative.

She is not the only woman chief executive officer in the tech industry, there is Natalie Jabangwe at EcoCash.
Zimbabwean Women Making An Impact!
Zimbabwean Women Making An Impact!

Arguably one of the youngest female CEOs in the country, Jabangwe is making an impact at Econet Wireless, a leading wireless telephony company in Zimbabwe.

Other names that immediately come to mind in the tech business include Angeline Vere (CEO Telecel) and Rudo Mudavanhu (Africom).

In the banking sector, it has been a women’s affair at Nedbank Zimbabwe where Dr Charity Jinya was succeeded as managing director by Dr Sibongile Moyo.

Talking of entrepreneurship, women are standing their ground and grabbing the market share.

Dr Divine Ndhlukula is a name that will pop into anyone’s mind when women entrepreneurship is mentioned.

She became the first woman to own a security company.

Again this was a male-dominated industry.

Her company employs hundreds of women in the country, opening doors that were once closed to women.

Even in the education sector, Zimbabwean women hold their own.

Not only are more and more women attending tertiary education every year, they are taking up important posts as lecturers, registrars and chancellors.

Dr Fay King Chung is one of those women that can never be left out when the history of the education sector is told.

She is a former Minister of Education who, together with Dr Hope Sadza, founded the Women’s University of Africa, which has made tertiary education even more accessible to women.

Other women who have grown to become forces to reckon include Dr Grace Muradzikwa, Tracey Mutaviri, Ruth Ncube, Nancy Guzha, Jane Mutasa, Lizwe Bunu, Florence Ziumbe and Tsitsi Masiyiwa.

While the world says behind every successful man is a woman, for women it is the opposite.

Behind every successful woman is a woman.

If one looks closely at what is behind these women, you will find tireless mothers who have worked to provide for their children.

The recent appointment of the first Tanzanian female president shows the powerful strides women have made, including on the political arena.

Traditionally, most African countries are patriarchal in nature, hence letting go of their power both inside the home and outside has been a real struggle.

Samia Suluhu Hassan — a wife, mother and also a practising Muslim who was sworn in as the Tanzanian President on March 19 — has an impressive political CV and the East African nation is excited to have her at the helm, as she is lovingly described as soft-spoken, level-headed and considerate.

Mama Samia, as she is popularly known, chose to challenge the norm from the time she grew up.

Being a good Moslem girl, getting married and raising a family was what her future looked like, but today she is celebrated by women all over and is an inspiration to many young girls across the world.

Wongai Chinjanja is an advocate for women empowerment. She can be contacted on

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