Isabella Matambanadzo is a Zimbabwean writer, gender and feminist activist active with the African Feminist Forum. With a background in print, radio and television Journalism, she has used media to amplify women's voices. She also has a background in reporting on breaking news stories in and around Africa having previously worked with Reuters News Agency from 1999 to 2001.
Isabella Matambanadzo was born on 5 June 1973 to Creacie and Paul Matambanadzo in the industrial of Pelandaba Suburb, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She is the first of four children. Her early years were spent with her mother and grandmother who introduced her to feminism. Their family moved to Highfield, Harare.
She attended primary and Secondary School in Highfield. In 1994 she attained a Diploma from the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations and went on to attain a National Diploma in Mass Communications at the Harare Polytechnic in 1995. She graduated from Rhodes University with a summa cum laude BA in Journalism, Literature and Theatre Studies in April 1999.
From 1999 to 2001, Matambanadzo co-produced, scripted, edited 156 episodes of the weekly KiSwahili, French and English news features television show Africa Journal for Reuters News Agency.
From 2003 to 2007 she was a member of the United Nations Secretary-General's Task Force on Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. Her reports and contributions along with those of other members are collectively published as Facing the Future Together: Report of the United Nations Secretary-General's Task Force on Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa.
In 2004 and 2006, Matambanadzo was an interviewer, photographer and researcher for Dr Kaori Izumi on Women's Land and Property Rights in Southern Africa. The report was published by the FAO Sub-Regional Office for Southern and East Africa.
From 2004 to 2009, she served as a board member for Radio VOP. On 24 January 2006 Matambanadzo and five other trustees from Radio VOP Zimbabwe were arrested on charges of operating without a licence. She noted that it was to prevent independent coverage of events in Zimbabwe. At that time, Zimbabwe was undergoing severe political instability and harassment and intimidation of independent press was popular. They were soon released on bail and their hearing was postponed until 25 September 2006, when charges were eventually dropped. Matambanadzo and other members started activism around press freedom. For her work, she was recognized as one of the 11 Front Line Women Human Rights Defenders 2007 by Amnesty International.
Matambanadzo continues to be involved in lobbying for gender and women's rights in areas of displacement, statelessness and child rights. On the issue of modern-day slavery, the Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe) noted that Matambanadzo urged government to escalate diplomatic pressure on Kuwait to account for the whereabouts of every single Zimbabwean woman who had been trafficked to Kuwait. She also has lobbied Zimbabwean government for women's equal participation in politics.
She has a contribution in Township Girls: The Cross Over Generation (2018) and to African Sexualities: a Reader (Pambazuka Press, 2012), and Beyond Beijing: Strategies and Visions Towards Women’s Equality (SADC Press Trust, 1996) amongst other works. She was coeditor with Professor Rudo Gaidzanwa of A Beautiful Strength – A Journal of 80 years of Women’s Rights Movements and Activism in Zimbabwe since 1936 (Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, 2017). She contributed a story to the anthologies Writing Free (Weaver Press, 2011) and Writing Mystery and Mayhem (Weaver Press, 2015), and most recently A Very Recent Tale’ in New Daughters of Africa (Harper Collins, 2019).
In 2006-07, Bella was named one of eleven women on the frontline of defending human rights by the global human rights watchdog Amnesty International for her work with Zimbabwe’s Radio Voice of the People (VOP). She has worked in 36 countries on the African continent in print media, radio journalism, and television news production.