Text: Winnie and Linda are part of pan-African sisterhood of leaders educated with CAMFED support – the CAMFED Association They work with CAMFED, mentoring more vulnerable young women to become independent and influential.
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe Hello, I’m Linda Bhebhe from Zimbabwe. I’m a CAMFED Association member. I joined CAMA [the CAMFED Association] in 2011, and I’m happy to be sharing about my journey so far with Winnie.
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe Great! My name is Winnie, I am a CAMFED Association member in Zimbabwe. I’m actually one of the first founding CAMA members. We founded CAMA [the CAMFED Association] in 1998, and I’m excited to be having of discussion and conversation with my sister Linda. Can you talk to us about when CAMFED started supporting you and what happened? When and what did they support you with?
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe CAMFED started to support me in 2008, when I had lost hope of continuing to secondary school. I just finished my primary school and my mother could not afford sending me to secondary school. That’s when CAMFED stepped in and they paid my school fees and catered for other secondary school needs like stationary and uniforms. That saw me through secondary school. And Winnie, can you tell me about when CAMFED starting supporting you and what had happened?
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe Well CAMFED started supporting me in 1995 when I was in Form 2. I was in boarding school and had not paid fees for the whole for the whole time. And I was on the verge of dropping out of school. That’s when CAMFED came in and started to support me. Linda, I want you to talk to me about your career path. What did you study? Where did you study? And why did you study what you studied?
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe I studied computer science. But when I first got into contact with a computer at the age of 19, I realized how much I’d missed and what other girls like me in my community had also missed out on. That’s when I acquired a passion for Computer Science and I enrolled at Ashesi University in Ghana, as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar and I earned my degree in Computer Science.
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe Great! Mentorship is very important. Are you still in touch with those that mentored you when you were growing up?
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe I’m sitting next to one of my mentors, my sister Winnie here! I remember back then in university, there were days when I would feel like giving up. Just because I was in a different country with a different culture, a different setup altogether. But having my sisters like Winnie here, like Angie [Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED’s Leader], who would keep on telling me that Linda, you can do it, would give me the assurance that it’s possible. It gives me the energy to keep pushing, even despite all these other challenges.
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe Why is education so important to you?
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe Education is very important to me. Educating a young woman gives her the confidence that she needs and the independence, and it does not only change her destiny, but the destiny of her family and her community as well. It helps a young woman to be independent and to make decisions, the best decisions for her life. You can decide when to get married, you can decide when to have kids, how many kids you want, and that on its own empowers you as a young woman.
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe Linda tell me something, what do you really enjoy about working with young women in the field?
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe So, right now in my work as an IT officer here at CAMFED, I don’t only work on the computer systems and the networks and all that, but I also dedicate my time to what’s empowering those young women in the marginalized communities, to ensure that they also appreciate the tech world and what it can offer so that they [can] best capitalize on it in their career paths and also as they study. And given the recent era of COVID-19, being “tech savvy” helped most of the students and most communities to ensure that their students or their children are still learning and still attending classes as they would have done before the COVID era. So, that’s what excites me the most, to see many other ‘Lindas” growing in their marginalized communities.
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe Can you share with me who inspires you? Who is behind, who is the driving force behind the things that you do?
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe My mother inspires me. You know what my mother did? She never had any tertiary education but she supported me and guided me throughout the way.
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe Linda, I have seen you growing up, I have seen you doing things.
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe As my mentor!
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe And I don’t doubt you’ve got big plans and dreams for the future.
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe Yes Winnie, I have personal plans and plans for my community. So for my personal plans I want to acquire more education, do my master’s, and make sure that I am well-equipped and well-rounded in my career. And for my community, I would want to set up a computer lab or a hub in my community that will help children to access technology as early as possible in their lives. Yes so that’s my dream. And how I’m going to do that? I realize that I need to first acquire more knowledge in the field so that I can have the expertise that is required to set up such a hub so that it’s really beneficial to my community. So, Winnie tell me about your career path.
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe After secondary school, I joined the University of Zimbabwe where I did a degree in psychology, and my drive into doing psychology was to understand people more. I wanted to understand people so that I can know how best I can help them. And from the University of Zimbabwe I did a degree and a masters in development studies, because I’d realized that apart from just helping individuals, I can have influence even globally.
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe Can you tell me about the people who mentored you at CAMFED and if you’re still in touch with them?
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe Angeline Murimirwa [CAMFED’s leader] is one person who really mentored me and was very patient with me when I was growing up. I took part in launching CAMFED in other countries with the assistance of Angie, and I’m happy that I’m still in touch and we still talk and we still inspire each other when it comes to the next stages for the future.
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe Winnie, as an educated woman, why is education important to you?
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe Education is very important to me. I have grown up and experienced the power of education in unlocking doors. There are times when you realize that without education, and without that respect that education gives you, you will not be listened to, you will not be understood. And education makes dreams real because it gives you the platform to be who you really want to be.
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe Can you tell me about your plans for the future?
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe I would want every child to have a mentor, and I would also want to see more young women who have moved from tertiary, who have finished tertiary education to also getting into those spaces where they mentor those that want to climb higher.
Linda, CAMFED Association member, Zimbabwe Can you tell me about what excites you the most about the work you do with young women?
Winnie, Founding member of the CAMFED Association, Zimbabwe I’m one person who enjoys what they do. I see that much potential of that little girl who is in secondary school and struggling, and we’re seeing that when they get the opportunity to be in tertiary, they can be someone, they can be bigger, they can be much [more] influential. That’s what excites me the most, the potential, and what the potential then unleashes to be.