I saw women rising from kitchens to boardrooms-Untold Testimony by Betty Makoni

(Robina pictured with Hwange team she is first on left side.Helping mother of triplets)

Today I received good news and am so excited. Back then in 2003 I never knew  one day I would blog or tweet or Facebook to share a story of a now empowered woman who was  once  just an ordinary house wife. She  later took a menial job as a receptionist cum cleaner in Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe but  through sheer hard work, determination and being inspired  bounces back  with a completely different story –she is  graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Counseling degree and there will be  a  party to celebrate her achievements..

There are many stories of my work I have  done out of passion and NOT DONOR MONEY  that I will blog about  because I never got a chance to write  during my busy and heavy schedule at frontline leadership of the organisation in Zimbabwe. It looks everyone who got inspired by my story worked towards their own transformation. To think just a story could transform others in this way has shocked me.

Maybe being a house wife one`s potential is often underestimated and it needs courage to identify and support such women because the more we create conditions that make it hard for them to develop a career the more we lose sight of potential around us .Most organisations hire highly skilled and educated women but one issue  that  bothers me is who can hire  women and girls  with potential and passion and then allow them to get on the  job training and wait for them to be in school  and college and be educated. It is tough but when I did it many times I feel the contribution was not to GCN Zimbabwe only but to the whole community and country .This is often overlooked in strictly professional recruitment  circles that when we do development work benefits are not  confined to our organisations only but the whole country as well.

Many of you may find such stories far removed from your reality but to poor and disadvantaged women and girls who solely thrive on inspiration and kindness from others the invisible life donation of passion changes their lives forever. They learn to dream beyond a village or a kitchen and bedroom. They learn to think about success and not failure because you are close by in their lives and they can interact. At least I saw this power to inspire each time I talked to women and girls. The more stories I get from women testifying how my story changed them the more I feel that such inspirational stories must be documented and shared so that many more women and girls can be inspired.

When it comes to inspiring others I realise that there is so much one can do without money. Today, I see  women who never seemed to exist moving up the leadership ladder to be successful and doing more and more work to inspire others. There is so much of this work of PASSION and not PAYROLL that am reminded of when I receive some messages from women and girls who felt they benefitted from my inspiration and so they are  working to pass on the same kindness. Work done out of passion is work that has never been measured or evaluated and so even though I know I talked to someone about their potential and what they can do about it  I am not so sure how that transformed  them completely. Many women say they are inspired but I am not so sure what changes take place when this happens. One thing I know is that they come to say they are new and better off than before. So there is something about an empowering and inspirational story that am exploring more about that I will share when my Biography  and poetry book come out.

To many who are accustomed to graduating from University or College, this might not be news worth writing  or reading about. But to me who spent some quality time with a woman called Robina, in a remote place of Matebeleland North in Zimbabwe where there is no and will never be a University around where she lives, I find her to be on my breaking news and I want the world to know that  in Africa there are many  women  and girls who try to do something  against all odds. Robina has  four children, there is no University in Hwange and so she travelled 700 kilometres weekly to  and from nearest University  to do studies and submit assignments. Money  and other educational resources were scarce . African women and girls  are resilient as always they dig a rocky place till water flows out.

To think today I will tweet the world to say look here is an African woman  and thousands others who  graduate from Universities that are 700 kilometres away and weekly  they are on a bus to and from to nearest city to attain education. In contrast there are some in better resourced and richer places  who do not even bother to attend class at a University that is 700 meters away.

I used to work with  Robina at  Girl Child Network Zimbabwe Hwange branch and she was one of our support staff-maybe just a cleaner or receptionist and her job started and ended at one place.  Today, she broke the barrier that kept her at reception to being at top management of the organisation. I can’t believe she is the one who dropped a message in my inbox today  to say she is no longer support staff but she is now supported staff like all Directors and Program officers at top management. She dropped me a message that has made me think what small actions can do to change other women`s lives and I want to encourage this among women as I have done it many times and it has worked.

A note below from Robina maybe short but to me it came a long way . It has been a long journey for her having missed opportunity. I always believe in women like her to have potential and so many of them I keep them so close to my heart.

Dear Betty

I will send you my picture. you empowered me to this end. May the Lord God Bless You Betty. My Degree comes from when you said “please YOU need to achieve more and be educated. Give it a try one day you will be big your selves” you said this when we were at Kadoma range hotel in 2003 when we were doing strategic planning for GCN ZIM


I told Robina that she had the potential  to be someone bigger and  initially she never believed me at at all. I continued talking about my personal struggles to be where I am, she really took it to heart and went on to enrol for a degree and later  sent me a message to say she had started on a degree in counseling. I was so happy that I responded back and said keep going. Today she is no longer a cleaner but Coordinator of Girls Empowerment Village in Hwange.  Imagine if she had not gone to further her studies. She could have remained with a broom cleaning the offices instead of being high on leadership ladder. When I see women who are deprived I always see potential and I have many testimonies of women like Robina who never had chances in life but through just telling them to stand up they actually did and they keep flying.

There is a real big struggle starting with  one who tries to help like in  this  case, me. I encouraged Robina to study but she had  no resources to support herself .Sometimes I felt guilty that my mouth would say too  about her achieving but at personal level I  failed  to give something  materially which could  help her  get to that level. Then she had her personal struggles trying to help herself when she knew she could not do it due to no and limited resources.

As we play games on Facebook and use such privileges  as the internet to search for luxury goodies, for a woman or girl  who is poor such resources could  be a life saver as she will reach out for help. I am sharing about situations where some people have everything to an extent they forget there are others  with  virtually nothing. And then situations where some women and girls have  nothing to an extent of thinking if ever there anything could come out of all their efforts at all. News of a woman graduating in a village  can bring everything to a halt in a village as that is news to them but to us it is but a passing story because we got the privilege to graduate many times and then forgot we have to do something to help others who have no such privileges.

I am sharing this story so that women and girls who missed opportunities to be educated know that they can be anywhere they want to be if they keep focus and work towards  a goal that is SMART. There are many messages that I receive from some former  staff members I worked with  in Zimbabwe and clearly human potential must not be underestimated or undermined. Sometimes I did not shout to the world that I am encouraging every woman  to climb up the leadership ladder but more than before you will hear me shout out joy and happiness of  some achievements being reported by some women. I will share such stories so as  to inspire other women and girls who might be giving up on their dreams and aspirations to know everything is possible and it takes courage to achieve what you want. As stories of hope come in my inbox it is better to  shout to the world that invisible women and girls are graduating and climbing up  the ladder of empowerment  rather than always shouting about their poverty and misery.  Robina and I  might have struggled to achieve what we have today  but we will not struggle to enjoy our achievements as women leaders.

Is it not great that a woman rises from being a cleaner or driver or receptionist to being a Coordinator or Program Director as well as  big boss in an organisation? As women are we not proud that at least some women who are far below ladder of leadership  rise up and lead just  like us. I am looking at my list of women who missed chances as girls who   worked with me and then achieved a skill that has taken them to next level. I am hoping they inspirationally infect every other woman and girl they meet like what Robina is doing-working for Mwemba Girls Empowerment Village for Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe.

Friends in many things that you are doing don’t forget to drop Robina a small surprise  note to say congratulations. robinachimowa@ymail.com and connect with her direct for future partnerships.

Also take some time to go and visit our project here and choose to support Robina`s work  in Hwange