CAMFED Association nurse aide, Zimbabwe

Ottilia was born in a family of seven children. As the fifth born, her parents struggled to come up with the money to pay her school fees, so Ottilia did small jobs for extra money to try and supplement the fees, especially when it came time to write her O-levels (lower secondary school exams). At the time she could only afford the exam fees for 3 subjects. After taking a knitting course, and earning extra income, she paid to re-sit her exams, and gain 6 subject passes.

I love the Learner Guide Program because I so much wanted to work with school children and help them to be focused on their school work so that they can better their future, and when I got the opportunity, I joined the program happily.

When her secondary school reached out to former students, Ottilia got the opportunity to join the CAMFED Association of women leaders, who give back to their community by supporting more girls at school. She trained as a CAMFED Learner Guide in 2015. Learner Guides volunteer their time to mentor girls in their local schools, and deliver CAMFED’s My Better World life skills and wellbeing curriculum. They help build girls’ confidence, so that they can perform better in schools, and work to prevent drop-out, connecting vulnerable children to local services. In 2017, Ottilia earned a Pearson SRF BTEC Level 3 Advanced Diploma to recognize her work as a Learner Guide.

Learner Guides are very important because they encourage girls to be empowered, to stand up for themselves, and to have self-esteem.

When the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed life for Ottilia and her community in rural Zimbabwe, she, like so many CAMFED Association members, did not hesitate to step up. Ottilia, who completed her training as a Nurse Aide at the Mutare Provincial Red Cross Centre in March 2019, is volunteering at her local clinic. Two days a week she helps by doing cleaning, wound dressing, and assisting the nurse on duty in the dispensary.  She has recently submitted her BTEC certificate as part of her application to nursing school, and hopes that her qualification and commitment will secure her a placement.

Ottilia is also doing community outreach to help stop the spread of the coronavirus by encouraging homeowners to install a “tippy tap” for hand washing. She visits homesteads to show homeowners how to make and install the simple tippy tap, used for hand washing under running water. People simply fill a large container with water, making a hole in the top near the cap. A rope is tied through the cap, attached to a large stick. The container is tipped by standing on the stick, meaning people only have to touch the soap, not the water container. By the end of May she had already helped install 56 tippy taps.

Ottilia providing important health information to her community

Ottilia providing important health information to her community after installing a tippy tap for hand washing during the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Rumbidzai Chingwe

Ottilia is well-known in her community for the detailed explanations and demonstrations on the health benefits of hand washing which she provides, emphasizing special precautions when visiting the toilet, the cattle kraal and the fields. Her community members appreciate the fact that Ottilia is a woman on a positive mission, and comply with her teachings. Ottilia is so committed to the anti-COVID-19 initiative that she wears her face mask at all times, and villagers now follow her example.

She earns an income from selling produce like tomatoes, rape, cocoa, and sugar beans from her vegetable plot, as well as baking and selling cream donuts and sweet buns. Ottilia uses part of her proceeds to help the less privileged, including by donating face masks and soap.

Ottilia is one of thousands of hard-working young women from marginalized backgrounds in our movement, who use their lived experience to help girls and their communities to thrive, and support them in times of crisis.

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