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Natasha

CAMFED Association member and Information Technology Auditor, Zimbabwe

My grandparents raised the seven of us, their grandchildren. Unfortunately, when I was just eight years old, my grandfather passed on and my grandmother had to bear the burden by herself. She used to do gardening to make ends meet — selling our extra harvest of maize and groundnuts. We would do what we could to help her in the fields.

I started going to school when I was six years old. I had to walk 14 kilometers (almost 9 miles) to and from school every day. At first it was just like a routine. Like any other child, I was of school-going age and had to go to school. Then I started doing really well. When I topped my class at the end of my first year in school, my grandmother had mixed emotions. She had noticed my potential but was very anxious about how best to support me to realize it.

My grandmother kept encouraging me, such that every time I topped my class, she would prepare rice and eggs for me. Rice and eggs were not common or ordinary foods in my family. It was a special meal. When things were better, my grandmother would slaughter one of her chickens for us and we would celebrate as if it was Christmas.

Sometimes during my primary school, I would get invitations to recite poems at events including Annual General Meetings, Independence Day celebrations, sports days and cultural days. At these events, I would receive donations from well-wishers in the form of school fees, books, food, and uniforms, which helped me keep going.

I graduated as the best student at my school when I completed my primary school.

My family was very excited about my progression to junior high school. They started gathering books, uniforms, and school fees in preparation. My grandmother especially was very keen to see me obtain an education. She would always encourage me and tell me that I was brilliant and I had the potential to do well.

When I started my junior high school, my grandmother’s last born out of her ten children had just completed university. He was the first person in our family to attend further education. My grandmother wanted me just to be like my uncle. She would say: “Now the men in the family are represented. You have the potential to represent the women in the family.”

However, my our dreams for my future were almost shattered during my first year in junior high school. I dropped out of school for two weeks because we could not raise the resources required for me to continue. It was then that I was selected for CAMFED support, through the CAMFED Teacher Mentor, Mother Support Groups and my community. I remembered the proverb: “Opportunity knocks only once at your door,” and that pushed me to study hard and give it all I could.

Natasha during her time at secondary school

Here I am as a secondary student, wearing my uniform.

I knew then that I could take ownership of my destiny and utilize this opportunity to change the storyline of my family and my community.

Through hard work, self-determination, and the support from CAMFED, my family, and the community, I graduated as the best female student in Buhera Rural District at the end of my junior high school with seven A’s, two B’s and a C. I broke the record as the best student at my school in 25 years, since its inception. With CAMFED support, I continued to high school for my advanced level exams, where I scored 15 points – that’s three A’s, including Maths, Accounting and Business Studies.

CAMFED then helped me to apply to Ashesi University in Ghana, where I got admission to study Management Information Systems as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar. Again, the opportunity to go to study in Ghana came with mixed emotions. It was the greatest opportunity to realize my dreams, yet, coming to terms with the thought of leaving my family for four years was not easy. However, I wanted to fulfill my grandmother’s dream to have a female graduate in the family. I wanted to show that it is possible.

As a student at Ashesi, I learned to be a critical thinker, a selfless and ethical leader, a team player, and I managed to build a network of friends across Africa. After four years in Ghana, I graduated with a distinction. My grandmother could finally celebrate that our collective dream had come true. She proudly said: “You have not only graduated from Ashesi university, you also graduated from hunger, poverty, and inequality.”

Natasha Mabuza CAMFED Association leader Zimbabwe

A proud moment for me and my grandmother, following my graduation.

Education was my only passport to break out from poverty and inequality.

It was not easy to keep going on my journey through education. Girls around me became victims of teenage pregnancies, early marriages, or sexual abuse to try and save their families from poverty. It is this background that inspires me to join hands with my sisters in the CAMFED Association network to support girls and young women in my community.

I serve as a role model and a mentor to girls and young women in my community by paying school fees and buying books for the less privileged, as well as providing moral support and guiding them through their career paths. I motivate students to dream big, study hard, and realize their dreams. Above all, I always share my story to encourage everyone to support the less privileged amongst us to attain their biggest dreams.

I often visit my community to show that it is possible by sharing what I have learned and encouraging others not to give up. For me, education opened my mind and exposed me to the world around me and beyond.

CAMFED Association member Natasha with secondary students in Buhera district, Zimbabwe

Visiting students in my home district in 2015.

Today, I work as an Information Technology Auditor in the Zimbabwe office of an international professional services company. I am a Cisco certified networking associate and a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. My day-to-day work involves assessing business IT environments, reviewing third party services, policies and procedures, as well as testing business internal controls for design and operating effectiveness.

I also work with my colleagues to configure, implement, and train users on how to effectively use internal audit systems that automate the audit process. In addition, I carry out forensic investigation assignments. I’m continuing my learning journey by studying towards my Certified Information Systems Auditor certification.

I believe in the power of concerted efforts from my family, my community, CAMFED and the Mastercard Foundation, who invested in my education so I could stand where I am today.

I am always inspired by my grandmother’s spirit and character of not giving up. She turned 86 this year and she still believes in the power of education to transform lives.

My grandmother and I are currently taking care of three orphans—they live with her and I am responsible for their well-being and education. I also support other orphans and vulnerable children in the community. I believe that my CAMFED Association sisters and I are setting the pace for the next generation of leaders who plow back to their communities.

To all the students reading my story: Education is your right, but be responsible and respect those who are holding the ladder for you to climb. The future belongs to you.

More from Natasha

Natasha-Mabuza-965111-Buhera-District-July-2015-DSCN4186

NewsGhana

Someone built my life. Now I can build other peoples’ lives.

When 22-year-old Natasha, who has just completed her second year at Ashesi University in Ghana, returned to her village in rural Zimbabwe this July, her grandmother’s entire being shone with pride. This hard-working woman had nurtured Natasha through difficult times, making every effort to educate her, against great odds, until CAMFED stepped in to help. Two years ago, she had seen her granddaughter off with trepidation as she journeyed to a unique university in a foreign country. Now she was hugging a budding leader, who had just inspired over 100 government officials, and over 1,000 students, to invest in their communities, and in education.

camfed_website_2020_hero_ayd2020

NewsZimbabwe

Africa Youth Day 2020: Vee Kativhu with Linda Bhebhe and Natasha Mabuza

For Africa Youth Day (November 1st), Zimbabwean-born Varaidzo (Vee) Kativhu, award-winning education content creator and social mobility ambassador, met up with CAMFED Association leaders Linda Bhebhe and Natasha Mabuza via zoom, discussing mentorship, leadership, and the importance of role models for girls’ education in marginalized communities. Watch their inspiring conversation, and learn more about their education journeys and world-changing ambitions, below.

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