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Privillege

CAMFED Association member and professional Athlete, Zimbabwe

CAMFED supported me through school and with the funds to take up an athletics scholarship. Now I’m excelling both in my studies and on the track – I am a sports game changer!

My name is Privillege. I am a CAMFED Association member from Chikomba West District in Zimbabwe and a professional athlete.

I grew up with my grandmother and seven cousins. As the main breadwinner, my grandmother worked very hard on her farm to provide for us all. Money was limited and often she was unable to pay my primary school fees. The threat of being sent home for unpaid fees was always present in my mind. When I was in grade 5, I managed to join the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) — a government funded support program for vulnerable children — that took me through to the end of primary school.

The government support however did not extend beyond primary level, so even though I passed my primary leaving exams, I was unable to make the transition to secondary school without money for fees, uniform, books or pens.

It was so hard for me to see others coming back from school when I spent all day at home herding goats. Often, I would cry.

I spent the whole of the first term of secondary school at home, until a Mother Support Group (local moms who are CAMFED Champions) discovered my plight. They referred me through the School Based Committee for CAMFED support, and at last I was able to join my friends at secondary school! Even though I was a whole term late, I was so excited and happy.

If CAMFED had not paid my school fees, I would not have had the opportunity to attend secondary school and for my athletics talent to be identified.

At school I worked hard in both academics and sports. Mr Chiseko, the school sports coach and my Teacher Mentor*, noticed that I excelled in athletics and started to give me extra training. He was very encouraging and even used his personal funds to get me to district competitions. I am very grateful to Mr. Chiseko, as without his unwavering support and encouragement for my talents, I would not be where I am today. He advised me to aim high in my life and not get married early, which was a real risk at this time. He bought me the proper spiked shoes I needed for racing, and even postponed a holiday so I wouldn’t miss my training. The school Head, Mr Zinyama, was also very supportive of me.

I have full knowledge and understanding of how talent can be meaningless if a child is out of school.

A challenge arose when I started trying to enter provincial and national events: I didn’t have the right identity documentation for entry. I had to stop competing for a year while the CAMFED district committee, Mr Chiseko, Mr Zinyama, my mother and grandmother all worked together to help me obtain essential documents, including a birth certificate.

The following season I was ready with my documents and I performed well. My success energized me to push even harder — scooping gold medals at national level. This landed me the opportunity to represent Zimbabwe at the 3rd African Youth Games in Algeria in July 2018.

Athlete Privilege trains outside on the athletics track.

Here I am during training. I like to compete in the 800m race because it’s a short event and I can run fast times.

Being selected for the 3rd African Youth Games was a huge milestone in my life and it was a new history at my school. I started to believe that I really was talented.

But this joy came to a swift end when I realized I didn’t have a passport, and without it I couldn’t compete.

At this pivotal moment, CAMFED came to my aid again. CAMFED Association members Clarah Zinyama and Dadirai Gwena helped me write a letter to CAMFED asking for help. Just a few days later I had my passport and other essentials I needed for the trip, including tracksuits and tops. With all my needs taken care of, I put my whole energy into my race and was the only track athlete from my country to qualify for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Argentina. I was so happy when my achievement was recognized by Kirsty Coventry (former Olympic swimmer and now the Zimbabwean Minister of Sport, Art and Recreation) when she presented me with a gift and congratulations.

All I needed was a sister to remind me I could make it.

Around this time I graduated from junior high school and joined my sisters Clarah and Dadirai in the CAMFED Association — the network of young women leaders educated with CAMFED support — knowing I would be surrounded by other young women dedicated to fighting poverty and improving the lives of others. I am grateful for their encouragement and for standing with me when I had doubts. 

I wanted to give back and support other girls like CAMFED supported me, so after graduating junior high I volunteered as a Transition Guide at my former school, helping students to make the leap between school and work, and build independent lives.

I am running with all my heart because I want to make CAMFED and the CAMFED Association proud.

Athletics has made me a well-known person and opened so many opportunities. After competing in the 2018 Youth Olympics, I was offered a full scholarship to senior high from the Zimbabwean National Sports Academy at Bindura University.

I finished senior high with good grades and knew I wanted to study at tertiary level. I know that education makes it easier to achieve more in your life. Yes, you can play sports, but you cannot go anywhere with sports alone. With CAMFED’s support in my application, I was thrilled to be offered a scholarship at Meridian College, Mississippi to study sports science and management. Before traveling to the USA, once again my CAMFED Association sisters came to my aid and helped raise funds for my clothes, travel bag, and money for essentials — all the things that my family couldn’t afford, they took care of. 

Privilege hold her medals after competing, and CAMFED Association members stand with suitcases at the airport to say farewell to Privilege.

On the left, when I competed in 2018 while I was still in high school, and on the right my CAMFED Association sisters say farewell before I travel to the United States.

I arrived in the USA in January 2023, and I’ve already been breaking records at the college. In March 2023 I was named the National Women’s Track Athlete of the Year for the 2023 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Indoor Track & Field season after winning the 800m and mile events at the 2023 NJCAA Indoor Track & Championships in Topeka, Kansas. When that happened, I cried tears of joy!

Here in the USA, I am not just running for myself, I am running to represent rural, talented children.

My background inspires me to work hard in my studies, balancing college work and sports. In class I focus and listen to what the teacher is saying, and on the athletics track I work just as hard. I don’t want to see anyone in front of me. I really enjoy athletics, but I know that it’s education that has helped me achieve what I have. If I wasn’t educated, maybe I would have married early and not fulfilled my dream of being a professional athlete.

Girls’ education is the need of the hour. If a girl receives education, it reduces the chance of her entering an early marriage and breaks the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

Studying abroad has been a valuable experience. Even though I miss my family, I’ve gained a lot of things like learning new languages, new friends, and new experiences. After completing my college course I hope to continue my degree at university.

As long as I live, I want to remove all barriers that can work against rural talented children. Be it a birth certificate, resources, recognition, a supportive environment, or the critically needed financial resources, I will join the children’s courage with mine to ensure they prosper.

In future I want to pay forward the opportunity that CAMFED gave me by starting a sports club that scouts talent in rural areas and showcases it on a national level. When children do not get assistance like the kind CAMFED gave me, they remain silent and unknown in the background. But once support is given to a child no matter their background, success is inevitable.

I lost my father when I was young, but the CAMFED Association is like my father to me because of the role that they played from day one. They are the ones who shaped my life and helped me turn my goal from a dream into reality. I boldly say these words: I am who I am because of CAMFED.

I am a role model to girls back home in my community. My advice to girls who are interested in sports is to work hard, focus, and don’t listen to criticism. You have to stand up and start shining. A role model of mine is Athing Mu from the USA who runs the 800m. She’s a very good runner and always inspires me.

I’m so grateful for my family who always support me and are so proud of me. I’m thankful to my coach who reminds me on a daily basis of the potential I have to continue to break records.

To the CAMFED family: I am because of you. To the CAMFED Association: I am doing this for you. Do not tire of giving what you have to rural disadvantaged and talented children. Together we can!


Privillege has been selected for the provisional team to represent Zimbabwe in the 800m race for the 13th African Games in Ghana, 2024.

 

*CAMFED trains a teacher in each of its partner schools as a Teacher Mentor, so that they can offer additional guidance and counselling to vulnerable students within the government school system.

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