Outstanding Women in Zimbabwe in 2020 according to Hannah Mentz

In a year that Zimbabwe should have been celebrating its 40th anniversary of independence in 2020, the country has battled drought, protests and food insecurity. In response, photographer Hannah Mentz created a project showing the talents and achievements of 40 Zimbabweans, including leading women in their field.[1]

List of Outstanding Women

Alexandra Maseko, captain of the Zimbabwe national women’s basketball team Maseko won a sports scholarship to Seton Hall University in New Jersey, US, and graduated in 2013. She is the founder of the Sports and Development Trust Zimbabwe, which helps young athletes to apply for sporting scholarships. ‘Honestly, few things can compare to that experience of representing your country and your fellow people back home. Being Zimbabwean carries with it a huge amount of pride for me’

Dr Thandeka Moyo, HIV vaccine researcher Moyo works at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, South Africa, as a post-doctoral fellow, researching HIV vaccines and more recently, those for Covid-19. ‘It makes me sad that many of us are at a place in our lives where we can’t be in the country that we love so much’

Dr Azza Mashumba, paediatrician Mashumba works as a paediatrician at the government Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and in a private practice in Harare. She is a member of the Paediatric Association of Zimbabwe. Her passion is advocacy for equitable healthcare for all children in Zimbabwe. ‘There’s a lot of hope, given the support we need, that things will get better. It’s not an irreparable situation, there’s so much that can be done and some of the things are not very big, with the support of partners and the government – we just need support’

Chipo Chung, actor Chung studied directing at Yale University and then trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. Her vast repertoire includes theatre, television, and film. She currently lives and works in London, but still feels connected to Zimbabwe. ‘There’s always this umbilical cord back home to where family is and for me, where my mother is.’ She believes Zimbabweans share a unique sense of self: ‘In the developed world, what is cool is manufactured whereas in Zimbabwe, what is cool is completely original’

Chido Govera, entrepreneur Govera is a farmer, campaigner and educator. As founder of the Future of Hope Foundation, she promotes fungiculture as a sustainable source of food and income in urban, rural and impoverished regions of the world. ‘Being Zimbabwean is my identity. This is who I am. It’s not something that changes because of the hardships the country is going through’

Beatrice Mtetwa, lawyer Mtetwa is one of Zimbabwe’s most respected human rights lawyers, who has been honoured with numerous international awards for her work. In 2014, she was among 10 extraordinary women, from 10 countries, to be presented with the US secretary of state’s International Women of Courage award. She is a partner at the law firm Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners in Harare. ‘I also felt it my duty to speak on behalf of my siblings to my father, who was a polygamist ... That’s where my community-spiritedness came from, speaking for the underdog’

Ayanda Candice Sibanda, model and activist Sibanda is the founder of the Ayanda Candice Foundation, which advocates for albinism and girls’ rights, as well as the founder of Zimbabwe’s Outstanding Teen. She is a law student at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. ‘My mum always said to me: “In life, never be defined by someone else’s belief of what is possible”

Ekenia Chifamba, activist Chifamba is the director and founder of the NGO Shamwari Yemwanasikana. She has won several awards for her work for children and contributions to world peace and human rights. ‘There is always someone out there who believes that change in a positive manner is possible and it begins with someone. I always say that I am that someone, it starts with me’

Egnetah Dongo, domestic worker The dire economic situation in Zimbabwe in 2008 forced Egnetah to leave her young daughter and seek work and asylum in South Africa. She is now a domestic worker in Cape Town, living with her son and supporting her family back home. Her story is that of the many millions of Zimbabweans who have been forced to leave their country to support relatives. ‘We come to South Africa to work but our hearts are back at home. Everyone who is working, we work for our families to eat. We send groceries back home, we send school fees back home for our families in Zimbabwe’

Helen Lieros, artist With her husband, Derek Huggins, Lieros founded Gallery Delta in Harare in 1975. She is considered one of Zimbabwe’s finest painters. She has mentored young Zimbabwean artists for the past 50 years who have gone on to be successful artists in their own right. ‘I feel it’s incredibly significant to be a Zimbabwean. We’ve gone through all the different changes, it’s been five different countries ... and yet the root of it has become Zimbabwe’

Selmor Mtukudzi, singer Mtukudzi is an award-winning musician and daughter of the late Oliver Mtukudzi, one of Zimbabwe’s most celebrated musicians, who died in 2019. Her passion for uplifting and amplifying girls’ and women’s voices has led her to form an organisation, the Vabvana Trust.

Tsitsi Dangarembga, writer Dangarembga has published short stories, plays, novels and screenplays. Her debut novel, Nervous Conditions, was the first published in English by a black Zimbabwean woman. It won the African section of the Commonwealth Writers prize in 1989. Her latest novel, This Mournable Body, was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker prize. She recently made headlines with her arrest during a peaceful demonstration in Harare. ‘This is something I was grappling with: about how to open up society to embrace women’s voices, and listen to women’s voices, and not stifle and suffocate them’

Suraiya Essof, humanitarian Essof works to improve the lives of communities. She is the founder of Kites for Peace Zimbabwe, a recreational movement for social change, and co-founder of the Zimbabwe Cares Network, a charity. ‘I believe that we rise by lifting others’

Thembe Khumalo, storyteller Founder and managing director of Brandbuilder Africa, a communication and brand strategy firm, Khumalo has worked in television, publishing and advertising and now supports startups as a coach, mentor, and trainer. ‘It’s time we celebrate the fact that we grow people, we grow skills, we grow talent, and then we give it to the rest of the world’

Tendaiishe (Tendai) Chitima, actor Chitima is an award-winning Zimbabwean actor, writer, singer and songwriter. She has featured in South African TV productions and played the lead role in the award-winning film Cook Off, recently released on Netflix. ‘I think a lot of us Zimbabweans have learnt that in order to really make it, we have to dig deeper within ourselves and overcome many many challenges’

Priscilla Masiyiwa Rongoti, activist Rongoti is the founder of Morelight Youth Empowerment, a community-based organisation in Harare advocating for sexual and reproductive health rights for young people and women, and facilitates access to relevant services for marginalised girls. ‘I would like to encourage young girls and women out there to stand up and build a better community’

Moreangels Mbizah, conservationist Mbizah is the founder of Wildlife Conservation Action, working to link conservation and community development. She studied zoology at Oxford University. In 2018, her work with African lions in Hwange National Park was the subject of a National Geographic short film: One Woman’s Remarkable Journey to Protect Lions

Irene Staunton, publisher At the forefront of the book industry in Zimbabwe since 1983, Staunton has published some of the country’s best-known authors. She has also worked with many academics on history, literature, law and society in Zimbabwe. ‘I think if you’re a white Zimbabwean, you have an extra responsibility to give back if you can. My hope as a publisher for more than 30 years is that I have enabled a corpus of work proffering many different stories and points of view’

Hope Masike, mbira player Known for her custodianship of the Zimbabwean mbira music heritage, Masike’s music has its roots in traditional and modern African culture. She has won several awards, released three albums and taken part in several collaborative projects. ‘I hope Zimbabweans will write and tell our own stories, us musicians, poets, historians, all of us – we need to capture the true story of Zimbabwe and tell that to the world’




References

  1. Hannah Mentz, [1], The Guardian, Published: 17 December, 2020, Accessed: 17 December, 2020