Interviewed and edited by Edinah Masanga
Dr. Hellen Venganai is one of the most educated women in Zimbabwe and is reaching back to the grassroots, leading girls on a path she herself has walked against all odds; education.
Dr, with all this education you could be anyone you want to be but here you are, going back to the roots to lead girls on a path that you have walked all the way to the top. What inspired this decision?
It’s a combination of personal battles I have had to fight as a girl and young woman since my school days, and what I have observed over the years pertaining to the status of girls and women in different marginalised communities,
…in my country and globally. It is always easy to look at those from underprivileged backgrounds and expect others to go out there and assist them. But, I took it as a personal challenge to become an advocate for the rights and empowerment of girls in my own country.
Tell me about the organization that you have established for this cause.
I have had the privilege of getting an education, but it is not fulfilling if I don’t share with young girls the lessons I learned in that process. Although I wanted to pursue science subjects when I was in high school and ultimately a medical career, I was confronted with some teachers who believed Maths and Science subjects were only for boys. Because I was made to doubt myself and my capabilities, with nobody to encourage and mentor me, I changed to Arts subjects. These personal experiences influence what we do at Mambure Trust, a nonprofit organisation that I founded a year ago. I realised most girls do not become what they ought to be due to socialisation that ascribes to them certain gendered career paths.
Mambure Trust is about shifting societal attitudes that hinder the potential of young girls.
We conduct career guidance and mentorship sessions in which we encourage them to pursue careers that have traditionally been framed as male domains. We particularly focus on girls in marginalised rural communities, who lack exposure to information about these careers.
We want them to dream beyond their gender and social backgrounds.
Part of our work also involves providing them access to technology by teaching them basic computer literacy. This is because technology offers them many opportunities to explore for their self-advancement.
When doing this noble work, you must face challenges I’m sure. Walk me through them.
The major challenge is the lack of financial support for our projects, considering we are a relatively new organization.
I understand it’s one of the major challenges that young organizations face at the beginning. Otherwise, were you inspired by anyone in particular?
I get most of my inspiration from other women who do amazing work of championing the rights of women and girls. I also get inspiration from women who have personally and successfully challenged gender inequalities, be it in film, politics, education, etc.
It is not only humbling to be able to talk to you about this amazing project, it’s so inspiring and fulfilling. Any last words?
Women just need to be reminded that they are very strong.
There is so much they can achieve if they believe in themselves and when they support each other.