Interviewed and edited by Edinah Masanga
Zimbabwean born and US resident Zvisinei Dzapasi Mamutse is on a mission to empower girls from her country of origin. Her organization, Vasikana Project, supports girls with material and other needs so that they do not miss school.
When did you start working for girls?
Something happened to me in 2014, (I turned 40) and I panicked and began to ask so many questions about my life and future.
I asked myself if I was to die tomorrow how would my children remember me, what values have I instilled in them living my day to day life;
…yes I have instilled good work ethics, value of education but what other values have I passed on especially from my mother, a hard working compassionate woman on whose shoulders I stand and all the other women who came before her. So it became clear to me that if I died at 40, all my kids would remember is that she worked very hard and was always gone on her shift. Hence Vasikana Project was born from a conversation with my sisters on passing on what our mom instilled in us about community service and that nothing changes unless you do something about it.
Why girls, what inspired you so much that you decided it had to be girls?
Girls are the core of every society, girls tend to look back more at their roots and I believe that when you empower a girl, you change their family, their village, and their community. Menstrual Health became our focus after a conversation with my sisters about the struggles of girls in the rural communities to manage their periods in safe dignified ways.
That touched my heart and I wondered why in 2017 we are connected by a touch of a button yet there is little development in the area of menstrual health?
This then made me realize it was the silence in that area; society regards it as a taboo subject and hence no one talks about it. How can it be fixed if we are not talking about it? So Vasikana Project was born from that conviction and is about spreading awareness as well as advocating for solutions.
Inspiring. Who is Zvisinei?
I’m originally from Zimbabwe but now based in the USA. I’m a nurse by profession and I recently completed a Masters in Nursing to become an Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. I have been married for 23 years to Honest Mamutse.
How does this work impact on your own personal life?
It is important as a parent to show your children, and not always tell them. You can’t tell your children education is important when you yourself are sitting on the couch with a remote in your hand watching reality shows. I’m inspired the most by my late mother Judith Mereki, who was so resilient and found the courage to pick herself up and reinvent herself time and time again. She died in 1992 but the values she instilled in me live on.
What advice do you have for other women?
Advice to women my age in the 40s, we have a duty, my sisters, a duty to carry on the legacies impacted on us, our young sisters in the 30s, 20s are looking up to us for guidance. And yes life can be hard and difficult but let’s keep moving, supporting and lifting each other up. There is strength in numbers and there is enough sunshine for each of us to shine.
Have you faced any challenges that you may want to share with us?
There are a lot of challenges that we face as women and it does us no good to sweep these problems under the proverbial rug.
Challenges I have faced are from those that believe speaking about menstrual issues should not be done by a fellow Zimbabwean, women who are embarrassed that menstrual health is even an issue in Zimbabwe. So I find myself explaining, yes, pads are in Zimbabwe, but it is not everyone who can afford them.