FIRST Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday took her women empowerment drive a gear up by holding a first-ever symposium involving female businesspeople who imparted life skills to female tertiary students that ensure self-reliance, as opposed to leaning on the so-called “blessers.”
Blessers are mostly married, elderly men, who use money to lure young girls, exposing them to diseases and immorality.
This comes against the backdrop of projects and scholarship schemes the First Lady has initiated through her Angel of Hope Foundation to improve the economic status of the womenfolk.
Themed, “Tertiary students on the go #Connect, Develop and Empower”, the symposium attracted thousands of female tertiary students from around Harare who converged at the University of Zimbabwe.
Amai Mnangagwa brought a team of over 10 high-profile women, including social commentator and talk show host, Mai Rebecca Chisamba, The Sunday Mail Editor Victoria Ruzvidzo, Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank senior official Mrs Barbra Muyengwa, Red Lipstick Revolution boss Dr Abigail Magwenzi, motivational speaker Dr Florence Mhishi and other speakers, mainly women in business, who took the attendees through various topics.
The no-holds-barred, heart-to-heart interaction touched on a number of issues that affect women and how to overcome them.
The topics included grooming and deportment, social media and peer pressure, project empowerment, sexual health, drugs, “blessers”, HIV and youth, hygiene, business empowerment, gender-based violence (GBV), sexual abuse, national identity and heritage.
The symposium was tailored to make the students understand that apart from their education, it was important for them to learn life skills that ensure versatility and the ability to adapt to any situation.
In her keynote address, Amai Mnangagwa implored the students to express and discover themselves.
She urged them to stay away from “sugar daddies” commonly referred to as blessers and use their hands to work for themselves.
“It is my utmost pleasure to be a part of this inaugural symposium whose focus is to foster interaction between businesspeople, female students and myself as a way of encouraging entrepreneurial innovation among our female students who will soon be graduating and getting into the world,” said Amai Mnangagwa.
“You are the author of your own life. Stop waiting, do that thing you have been waiting to do. There is no point in waiting for the right time to do something because that time will never come. Be the heroine of your story, not the victim. I want you to feel change by what is going to happen here today.
“I urge you to have the drive and ambition and then go for it. You have to be encouraged in life that even if your path may wind and bend, it is still a path that is going somewhere. Keep walking, which is what we are doing today. You are capable of all things you have been telling yourself are beyond your means. You are budding with greatness, let it bloom.”
The First Lady said improving the life of the girl child had been a consistent focus at various international, regional and local forums, hence the decision to hold the symposium as part of her efforts to empower the girl child.
She commended the rise in girl child enrolment in learning institutions from primary to tertiary levels, saying this demonstrated increasing awareness among citizens on the importance of the girl child in national development.
“It is in this spirit that this symposium was planned so that together and through interaction with notable female business personalities here, we have come to chart a new path for the girl child who is on the verge of graduating from university,” said the First Lady.
She said students should not just get papers indicating they have degrees, but the degrees should improve their lives and, by extension, aid the development of the nation.
“The girl child should not be left out of this development,” said the First Lady.
“Statistical evidence has revealed that globally, we have more women than men. This also applies in Zimbabwe. Thus, there is no development that can occur in any nation that does not respect its women, starting with the girl-child.”
As Zimbabwe seeks to achieve milestones it has set, the First Lady said it was important for the girl child to be part of the steps that the country takes towards their achievement.
“This is why, after this symposium, it will bless my heart to see all the young ladies gathered here becoming torch-bearers in various fields of economic development for their own good and for the good of the nation,” said the First Lady.
“In addition to your education, which is invaluable, it is important that you learn life skills that ensure versatility and the ability to adapt to any situation. To the recent graduate, instead of going around looking for someone to be a boss to you, why don’t you become your own boss?
“Let us cease asking what the economy can do for us, but let us ask ourselves what we can do to contribute to our economic growth, thereby ameliorating our living standards.”
Besides the speakers, many exhibitors displayed their wares and products, and invited the students to their stands giving them tips on how to start businesses.
“All these exhibitors have come for you, most of them being female like you,” said Amai Mnangagwa.
“They are here with me to impart the wisdom and knowledge to you gathered from all the years they have lived. Do not waste it.
“We want to groom girls on the go, who will mature to become women on the move and make meaningful contributions to our nation. It is possible when the girl child begins to think beyond blessers for a good life and begins to create a tangible future through hard work and entrepreneurship. Tazviramba zvemablesser.”
Mai Chisamba said unbeknown to most people, Amai Mnangagwa had always had a passion for the advancement of marginalised communities and empowerment of women, well before she was the First Lady.
Amai Mnangagwa encouraged Mai Chisamba to travel to remote communities to ensure her programmes benefited everyone, unlike in the past when her programmes were studio restricted and benefiting areas with television and radio coverage.
Mai Chisamba was full of praises for Amai Mnangagwa, whom she said played a pivotal role in the success of her career.
“I attribute my success to Amai Mnangagwa,” she said.
“Well before she was First Lady, she used to give me words of encouragement and advised me to leave the studio-based programme concept into one in which I would meet people even in remote areas to discuss various educative and empowerment topics.
“Now, she is our First Lady and she is still advocating for upliftment of marginalised communities and empowerment of women. This has always been her passion.”
Amai Chisamba described the First Lady as a selfless character who derived joy from the empowerment of the majority.
She said Amai Mnangagwa’s humility and hands-on approach endeared her to many and saw most of her projects succeeding.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said the Government aspired that students be equipped with leadership skills, multilingual proficiency, thinking skills, knowledge, hunhu/ubuntu, national identity and heritage.
The country’s education, he said, provided for the attainment of these aspirations.
“Zimbabwe will leapfrog in a big way and we are doing so,” said Prof Murwira.
“Let me hasten to say that we are cognisant of the fact that 21st century universities must be focused on those they serve.
“They must transform themselves from faculty-centred to society and student-centred institutions, becoming more responsive to what students and society need to learn and to know rather than simply what faculties wish to teach.”
Minister Murwira said the ministry had zero tolerance towards gender-based violence and implored female students to report cases of sexual harassment to authorities who will ensure that justice is served.
He urged all students to embrace Heritage-based Education 5.0 which placed emphasis on doing and not just theory.
The students praised Amai Mnangagwa for giving them valuable insights and there was jubilation as the First Lady joined them and other guests in singing and dancing.
“Madzimai anoshanda tasvika, sudurukai tipinde mudariro,” sang along the crowd.