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Patience,
CAMFED Association member,
Zimbabwe

I grew up in a family of 8 children and a single struggling mother, who was a teacher. We received little attention from the world as everyone believed my mother could afford to support us all since she was employed.

At school, most of the time I did not have enough of what was needed. I used to ask other teachers for a chance to do their laundry, clear their yards, and at times clean their homes so that they could help me and my younger brother with school needs. I vividly recall standing at an assembly with a very different uniform color and oversize shoes. I never enjoyed school as I was the laughing stock to my age mates. My mother was a proud woman, ashamed of our poverty, and embarrassed to ask for help.

During the first term of Form 4 in 2009, when registration for national exams was in progress, I dropped out of school, as my mother could not afford to pay for my examination fees and I owed a lot on levies. That’s when the CAMFED Association, CAMA (the network of women leaders educated with CAMFED support) came to my rescue. They voluntarily raised funds for me to register for 9 subjects and this is how I returned to school.

“I stand as evidence of what CAMFED Association members can achieve in their quest to keep children in school.”

At school I always challenged gender notions. I was best in science subjects, which at that time were recommended for boys. Academically I was amongst the best students in my class. I also championed a girls’ soccer club at my school when I was in Form 2, and I was the captain. I was always a leader in school and I took up roles such as a senior prefect and heading up the debate club. My vision was to become a member of parliament — I felt then that there was minimum representation of women there. Still to this day, I desire to influence the policy frameworks particularly those policies to protect children and women against sexual abuse and ensure these are enforced with due diligence.

I joined the CAMFED Association in November 2009 soon after completing my end-of-school examinations. Since joining the network I have received multiple trainings which include Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Sexual and Reproductive Health Education as well as facilitation skills as a Core Trainer of CAMFED Learner Guides. Becoming a Core trainer for the district was a turnaround for my life. I received a KIVA loan to boost my fast food business, and now I am a role model in my community and the story of my life motivates and inspires young women.

“Driven by the scars of poverty, the CAMFED Association is rich in experience and thus works to ensure the next generation is safe from the challenges we faced. It is a lifeline of our communities and a weapon against poverty in our nation and Africa as a whole.”

As a Core Trainer, I am building the capacity of CAMFED Association members to provide continuous mentorship to children in school and support girls to realize their full potential. I am mentoring other CAMFED Association members to become transformational leaders like myself and uplift their families and communities through entrepreneurial development, tertiary education support and leadership development trainings.

I also run a support group for young women and girls who are victims of abuse in partnership with the National Aids Council. I initiated this group to ensure girls have a safe space to discuss their issues and heal. So far I have a number of young women who have undergone this healing process and have emerged to become leaders in their communities. 

Patience holding a microphone

Patience speaking at a CAMFED Association leadership meeting in Zambia. (Photo: Anke Adams/CAMFED)

As an entrepreneur I act as a role model and a business mentor to young women in my community to help them develop as entrepreneurs. I work with partner ministries to create a support system in business orientation, resource availability and market linkages. To date five CAMFED Association members have established their businesses under my mentorship, and have become CAMFED Business Guides, training other CAMFED Association members.

“From my experience women have a passion to see change and uplift everyone rather than focusing on benefiting oneself.”

Our communities have awakened to the need to educate girls, however resources still remain scarce to cater for all the needy girls. Their safety is still threatened by poor sanitation in school, poor infrastructure, long distances to school and differential treatment between boys and girls in our schools. My education is a weapon against poverty. It was my stepping stone and a master key to the doors of achievement I have opened in my life. If I had not received the education I attained, I would still be confined to poverty and depend on other people for support and survival. I would not have achieved what I have achieved now, and most definitely my family would still be wallowing in poverty.

“With me in their corner, young women and girls in my community are hopeful for change.”

I spend my days at the CAMFED Association Resource Center, assisting CAMFED Association members to understand basic computer packages such as Microsoft® Excel®, Word® and PowerPoint®. I hold briefings with the Community Development Committee on the various ways we can assist children in school and young women in the community. This usually involves planning trainings in liaison with other ministry activities, looking for support for other needy children who might be outside CAMFED support, and those who need extra support outside CAMFED packages.

So far under my mentorship three other young women have taken up Information Technology (IT) related pathways. I aspire to bring an IT center to my community to earn an income for myself whilst at the same time using my skills in IT and software engineering to empower young women with technology skills. I assist young women from rural areas by providing them with current information updates and help them adapt to the new normal where everything is digitalised, such as online applications to Universities and colleges, virtual interviews and digital marketing for those in business.

Patience training other young people in computer skills

Patience has been highlighted on Forbes for her work to train others and encourage them in IT-related pathways. (Photo: Henric Ndlovu)

Patience leads a small study group

Together with other CAMFED Association members, Patience led study sessions during the COVID-19 crisis. (Photo: Henric Ndlovu)

“Success comes with supporting someone from humble beginnings until they become the best they can be.”

This work to bridge the digital divide was especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we as CAMFED Association members came up with innovative ways to ensure that children in rural communities also access learning materials. I worked with a core team of young women who have access to the internet, to download and share educational content with the learners through offline data sharing apps. We also distributed physical reading materials and established small study groups of up to four children.

"When it comes to supporting children, I don't compromise."

When I look back to what I have achieved in the last 5 years I feel so proud of myself. My younger brother graduated in 2019 as a trained secondary school teacher with my support, and I am now back on track of pursuing my studies. My next big goal is to complete my Information Technology and Software Engineering degree!

Read Patience's interview on Forbes