ZIMBABWE: ‘To know grandmother is because you were told’ is a Zimbabwean proverb translated from the Shona language. Often heard in Zimbabwean households, the proverb means that in order to have knowledge and information about something, one should be acquainted with other people’s or their own experiences.
This proverb applies to United States-based Zimbabwean young girl Makanaka Chikowero(16) has discovered that her life is different from that of her peers in Zimbabwe. She realized this for the first time when she attended the United Nations Commission on Status of Women Youth Conference at the age of 10. At this conference, she found out that there are so many young girls who have limited freedom and opportunities when compared to her own.
She is a recipient of many prestigious awards. Last year, Chikowero won an International Children’s Peace Prize and “2020 #ShelnspiresMe” award.
Advocacy for Girls Education
While doing a gender equity project in her elementary school, Chikowero realized that gender stereotyping is a major issue that was widespread around the world.
This discovery, followed by the UN youth conference trip inspired her journey to advocate for equal rights and opportunities for girls. In her country, many girls fail to acheive much education due to societal norms and gender stereotypes which is quite prominent in the rural areas.
To provide better education opportunities to the girls, Chikowero founded a non-profit organization (NGO) called Makanaka Tadiwanashe Chikowero (MTC) Educate A Girl Foundation. This foundation seeks to assist young girls in marginalized communities through education and sport.
Despite difficulties, she is working tirelessly to make a change in the Chimanimani community where she is set to build a free study center in Nhedziwa. She has already been allocated a piece of land to build the institution.
Helping girls with education during COVID-19
While talking to Transcontinental Times, Chikowero said that during COVID-19, her learning made an easy online transition as she had the required resources and tools to continue learning whilst those in Zimbabwe were unable to attend classes.
“The girls being unable to attend classes or communicate while l attend classes and meetings online, brought out the digital divide which I hope to bridge. With the idea of a study center, I want to create a space where girls could continue their learning, have access to books, internet, and can hang out”, she added.
Shortage of adaptive resources to learn online
When the lockdown was first announced at the end of March last year, many rural children failed to attend online lessons due to the unaffordability of adaptive resources in communities.
In some communities, the parents were only able to pay the school fees of their children. Many children were deprived of quality education due to the unavailability of the internet and computers.
Chikowero wishes to add an internet hotspot that will help young girls attend online meetings in the future. “I sit on various international platforms and the girls are unable to attend zoom meetings or other internet-based forums where they should be speaking for themselves.”
Books donation to promote a learning culture
Last week Chikowero secured a container of books for the study center which she believes will benefit local young women and girls.
“With the books that I secured I hope to create and maintain a reading culture outside of school while creating an alternative safe space. At the moment I will give priority to girls in the soccer and education program and young mothers who are survivors of child marriages who wish to continue reading and empowering themselves in the Nhedziwa and surrounding areas”, she said
In terms of collaborating with others, she said that she has been working closely with the girls in Murewa, Mhondoro, and Chivu. Chikowero also added that her wish is to make MTC Educate A Girl a national program.
“Depending on the availability of resources l hope to make this a national project because education is important in fighting child marriages.”
Earlier, Chikowero had also paid the school fees of many orphaned girls who were victims of cyclone Idai and HIV/AIDS. It is rare to see someone of Chikowero’s age execute such a responsibility that is benefiting so many communities.