11 Feb

Journeying to #Budalangi

As the plane landed in Kisumu, I held my breathe. It has been long time since I have been to this part of Kenya. The transformation was real, last time I was here more than 15 years ago, the International Airport was on the drawing board.

I felt the unspoken springy feeling in the air. I have just come from Nairobi, where the previous day Raira had been inaugurated People’s President. I had to be careful of what I think or what I say, after all I had just come from the AU Summit where the President of the Republic, Uhuru waKenyatta had just addressed the house.

We were on our way to Budalangi, that place I had longed to visit. Mama H was literally on the tarmac to receive me and my daughter. I mean the tarmac after arrivals, and not the other one before immigration! K540 had arrived on time.

I did not see anything of Kisumu, because I was drowned in the moment of reconnecting with a friend. I recovered, to enjoy my surroundings, when we were at Maseno University. I thought former MP Hon Christine Mango! That aunt of ours. Many years back she kept on insisting I have to properly visit Western Kenya., and in a good way. “I mean properly and not those kind of workshop attendance kind of visits, where you people think you know our place after attending a 3 hour meeting in a hotel room, and you become an expert of our village. Come properly…” I could hear her voice again, in my mind. Now I have come tete.

The road was good, and I understand it was built during the election season…The only barrier to our cruising drive, thoughts and chatter was the huge HUMPS in the middle of the road. Our small car was too low, and at one point, me and Mama H had to get out, walk past the hump, and relieve the back seat of some weight…The little car could breath again, and neatly navigate the hump

By the time we arrived at the house built in 1945, where Bwana Okondo was born, I was so alert and ready for an evening marathon of catching up.. The word gossip does not exist in my vocabulary. We covered ground, both in talking and eating that evening. Chakasara chine mudzimu wacho!

I miss #Budalangi already.

15 Oct

Picking the Pieces: Surviving Rape @14

She sat on the same seat she was more than a month ago. Gogo, I have come to show you the baby, she said as she unwrapped the two month old cutie, a product of rape. She is 14.

“I am happy to have been in that meeting with other young moms last week but one. I have decided to do ZABEC, which the headmaster told us that day. Actually, I did not come to just show you the baby. I wanted to tell you that I decided to come back to school and write my grade 7 next year. I also came to tell you gogo that the man who did this to me was finally arrested. He is at the police until i do not know when” she was breathless with emotion.

We looked at each other with that smile. She trusts me. She walked more than 7kms to come and share with me the triple good news. I prayed for wisdom, courage and discernment.

We ate mutakura, maize and lentils mixed. We said our goodbyes and she left me with this Alleluia feeling.

09 Aug

#Daring@50: The Girls Opportunities Fund: A Special Launch

By Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

This is a special day for me. I never dreamt I would live to see this day, and celebrate 50 years, earth strong. Today, I decide to make a small mark in creating opportunities for rural girls in this world, especially in Zimbabwe, in ways that seeks to reshape the conversations about identity, capabilities and possibilities in life.

Today, as I received and cherished the birth day messages from family, friends and well wishers from around the world; my own dream hidden in my heart for decades became solid and grounded. I launch this Girls Opportunities Fund, to support African girls specially to think “global”, to have opportunities that enables them beyond the narrow definitions that have continued to ghettoise their identity, capabilities and possibilities in life.

Just like the millions of African women and girls, we are more than a statistic of under development, a measure of preventable mortalities, illiteracy, inequalities and deprivation in our communities. Girls and women in Africa are innovators, talented and change agents. Often such girls simply lack opportunities in life.

I am daring@50 to redefine the self. While affirming my Africanness and blackness, I am more than the colour of my skin and the continent of my birth. Girls must claim their space and voice in the totality of their identity without limitations of race or place of origin. Girls must have opportunities to go global, without a sense of internalised inferiority, with the ability to fight prejudices present in today’s world. They need the confidence to  strive for equality of peoples, fight for justice everywhere and stand against racial discrimination in their personal lives, the workplace and their communities.

I am daring@50, to affirm that I am human first, with integrity, dignity and rights; before my identity is confined by patriarchal expectations of womanhood or motherhood. At the same time I celebrate my being female, a mother and a spouse. I dream of strong girls who can self-define their potential, their capabilities and their possibilities as individuals. Girls who do not look at marriage as an escape from poverty, whose sense of self- worth is not defined by whom they know and what heritage they carry or marry into. I dream of girls who simply stand tall based on their inner self awareness and recognition, confident that they can care for the self.

I am a citizen of ZWE carrying an identity which gives me a standing, rights, obligations and a voice. I have my responsibility to my nation, paying taxes, cleaning my neighbourhood, participating at my local school, concerned about the health system in my community. I cast my vote and have a say in how my country is governed. I equally raise my country’s flag in far off lands, knowing that I will always dial +263 to speak to my friends and loved ones at home. My heart aches when I witness violence in our country. I pain and seek solutions when huge leakages in our economy deny us of decent health care services and education for our children. I am therefore #daring@50 to walk with girls, as we rebuild a sense responsible citizenship, grounded in the spirit of our fore-mothers that knows service, always yearning for accountability and striving for justice.

Over the years, I have been privileged and trusted by young women and girls globally, on my continent, in my Zimbabwe and my community. We have prayed and played together. Parents, families and communities have opened their hearts, their doors and their feelings to me, in public and in private. I have sat on many tables of decision making, whether in technocratic or political discourse. I have dined with kings and queens,  heads of states and all who are called leaders. I have sat on the floor cultural leaders and on pews with men and women of the cloth. I have followed the discourse of male engagement, analysed the protection approach in children’s rights, and joined in protests in cases of abuse and victimisation of girls and women. Whether on issues of conflict, HIV, child marriage, poverty, education, health or climate change, the Africa girl has been the centre of the narrative.

Thus it pains my heart, when the dominant approaches often  comodifies  African girls, and provides a narrative that does not go beyond their vulnerabilities. A mono narrative that views the girls as mostly disempowered and fragile. One that reduces them to a case study, a poster, a footnote or a box of a significant change in a glossy report. The view that stifles their voice, potential and capability, and perpetuate the external saviour mentality.

It denies full focus on the inner being and dwells mostly on the material external conditions of life. I have served in my government, has been in civil society served in the UN and undertake the reality of stable, conflict or humanitarian countries.  In the last three years I had the privilege to serve as the African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage. My life had never been the same since. Today I live in my village and encounter the reality of rural girls on a daily basis.

In 2007, I dared to honour my late mother in a meaningful way, and co-founded Rozaria Memorial Trust together with my siblings. Today I am excited to share that through the Trust we are rejecting the narrow identities of organisations founded in communities in global south, which are often defined as CBOs, grassroots or the field. The hundreds and thousands of girls we live and work with then also see themselves as grassroots and field stuff. Today, I am pleased that RMT has gone global with the girls. We sit in the corridors of policy making at the continental level. And much more, we are now a registered organisation in the US, thus able to bring our experiences to be truly beyond the narrow definitions of our village.

Finding solutions with girls to unleash their potential is key. African girls need to build their social and economic assets. They need opportunities in education, with technology, mentorship and exposure. We must invest in their knowledge, their voice, creativity, capabilities and their possibilities, thus enabling them to be active and critical actors in the transformation of our societies.

Today, I am therefore pleased to launch the #Daring@50: Girls Opportunities Fund. The vision is to raise $50,000 during the year long celebration of my 50th birthday, and the 10th anniversary for Rozaria Memorial Trust. I am donating my own 10% into the fund. The goal is to raise on average $4,000 per month in cash or in kind towards this goal.

There are three objectives to the fund:

  1. Equip two resource centres with IT facilities and books for two communities in Murewa and in Shamva. Technology is an enabler for opportunities for girls in rural communities today.
  2. Provide educational assistance and support to girls who have experienced child marriage or teen moms. Re-entry to education or training is critical to rebuilding the social and economic assets of girls as mitigation of the abuse experience.
  3. Facilitate self confidence, awareness and self esteem through exposure and creative exchange visit for girls including through sport especially girls soccer.

The #Daring@50:Girls Opportunities Fund will be administered by Rozaria Memorial Trust, a registered organisation with track record of work with girls in Zimbabwe. It had the legal, administrative and governance capacity to receive donations, and gifts in cash or in kind. For US contribution, the organisation is able to provide a tax deductible certificate.

I am inviting you to dare with me for the year.  I do this in honour of my late mother Rozaria, and all the mothers who have and continue to dare for their daughters. For my late father, for the few years walked earth with me, you truly gave your very best. To my siblings, my own husband and children, you dared with me every day for the last 50 years, and maybe many more to come. I honour you.

To all my friends and people of goodwill, you bring meaning my life. Thank you for celebrating this day with me.  I thank you.

Happy birthday to me.

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

9 August,2017


06 Aug

Its still About Girls and Young Women

Its good to be blogging again, keeping the focus on girls and young women. I took the role as Chief Executive of Rozaria Memorial Trust, and continue to serve as the African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage. Watch this space.

01 May

Human Trafficking is Exploitative Labour, A Crime and Modern Form of Slavery

cropped-NG31.jpgBy Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

As the sun sets today, thirty-two (32) of our Zimbabwe sisters who arrived yesterday from Kuwait will or have been reuniting with their families. Away from the glare of the public, holding on to the joy of life saved, they will be recounting their experiences. Some stories will be in drips and drops, others will be a gushing of emotions, pain and tears. The pain and the experiences are still raw. Exhaustion and joy!

Some of the survivors are embraced by welcoming parents or guardians,  possibly cursing themselves for having urged and supported the trip. Others will face the tensions in their homes as the blame game is reignited and finger pointing ensues. Who did what, gave what information or did not listen to the other. Others have no immediate family to go to, a distant aunt, sister, ambuya nasekuru. Others have their children patiently waiting for mom to embrace.

Some may have literally run away from home and now they have to get somewhere kwekupotera, for they can not just arrive back home. Or they went against their parents or “social/economic guardians” wish, for legal age of majority does not confer total freedom for poor dependent young women and girls. Some have inquisitive boyfriends, partners or husbands or are happy or anxious to have their loved ones home. They are equally unsure of how they will handle the information if she discloses sexual abuse of any kind.

This is my call out to families, friends and loved ones receiving in your homes the women who were trafficked to Kuwait. This is not the time to dig into the details, to blame and shout, and sleep late into the night sorting out all the details. This is simply the day to welcome, to show love, empathy and understanding.

On this 2016 Labour day, its a day in which as a nation, as a people, as Africa and the world, we are acutely reminded of exploitative labour. Exploitation of domestic workers everywhere. Human trafficking from Zimbabwe to Kuwait is mostly for exploitative labour. We must have robust global laws to stamp out these criminal acts. Zimbabwe must step up its efforts to prevent human trafficking. We must all do what we can to have our hundreds of sisters still stranded in Kuwait to come back home.

Lets reintegrate with empathy and understanding.

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