SPOUSES of chiefs and headmen in Mashonaland East province yesterday commended First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa for her sterling efforts in restoring the traditional values and norms in youths and spearheading empowerment programmes .

The traditional leaders’ spouses threw their weight behind Amai Mnangagwa’s efforts to promote advocacy  against harmful practices endangering social norms and values and impacting on youths.

At an interface in Harare between the First Lady and spouses of traditional leaders from Mashonaland East province, Amai Mnangagwa drew attention to the revival of the concept of engaging young girls and boys under cultural settings that assist to restore their dignity.

Known as the “Nhanga” concept in cultural parlance, the practice is where young girls are gathered by elders and imparted with knowledge and skills to keep healthy, achieve self-sufficiency and build successful marriages.

Boys too were advised by their uncles, grandfathers and other traditional leaders at a court that was known as “Dare” where they were moulded into responsible men.

Most problems affecting boys and girls were solved at the Dare and Nhanga, where elders provided wise counsel.

It is these values which Amai Mnangagwa, who is the Patron of Angel of Hope Foundation, is seeking to revive countrywide as part of measures to fight moral decadence that is manifesting in schoolchildren countrywide.

It is a concept that has defined Zimbabwean society, with the hope that its revival will be central to restoring cultural values among youths.

With incidents of teenage pregnancies and early marriages, spouses of chiefs and headmen have been given a role to help protect the girl child.

The climax of her nationwide campaign to restore cultural values, these meetings have been pivotal to raise awareness and advocate for key strategies to reduce high levels of moral decadence that is fast consuming youths.

“We must revive and treasure our traditional way of life as we are following alien cultures. We are here to revive our culture and treasure our old way of life. We encourage communication between elders and children from ECD (Early Childhood Development) level,” said the First Lady.

She implored traditional leaders to use their social position to influence positive change in their communities.

“Children must be taught our traditional way of life, which they have done away with. We should catch them young” she said.

The forum was part of a nationwide campaign to condemn inappropriate practices among boys and girls.

The influence of western cultures and norms is taking a huge toll on the youths, with technologies shaping the agenda among many within this segment.

Consequently, this has resulted in high incidence of teenage delinquency both in urban and rural communities.

Newspapers, radio broadcasts and social media platforms are awash with pictures, audios and videos of young boys and girls performing despicable acts.

The First Lady advocated a return to the country’s traditional way of life which had mechanisms to impart wisdom across generations and mould youths into responsible citizens.

During the interactive session, the First Lady stressed the need to restore the “Nhanga”  concept with the First Lady, wives of chiefs and headmen agreeing that the country was facing major challenges which needed to be dealt with decisively for the benefit of current and future generations.

Amai Mnangagwa, who is a hands-on person, urged the wives of chiefs and headmen to seize the bull by its horns and gather young boys and girls in their areas of jurisdiction for counselling sessions.

An agreement was sealed at the meeting between Amai Mnangagwa and the traditional leaders’ spouses that from the session going forward, the traditional leaders would play active roles to initiate monthly meetings with boys and girls from their communities to cultivate good behavioural practices and restore acceptable norms.

The interactive session was filled with pomp and fanfare as chiefs and headman’s wives were clapping hands, laughing and ululating.

Amai Mnangagwa advocates a return to the country’s traditional way of life which has in-built mechanisms to foster family unity and curb violence and other harmful practices that endanger the lives of youths.

She was recently in Manicaland, Matabeleland and Mashonaland Central, where she held similar meetings with traditional leaders’ spouses.

“I know where you come from you are faced with many challenges affecting the girl child. You will also be in attendance when issues affecting women are tried by Chiefs or headmen as you are sometimes invited by them to be present. You should analyse the cases and help in listening attentively to how such cases are interpreted to the chief.

“At times you are invited by the chiefs to attend to the cases involving women. In doing so, please take your stand as a mother and let the chief take his position, musingavaendere kumberi (without undue interference). The chief must show that he has a helper and do not defy the chief as this lowers his standing in front of the people.

“Handisikungotaura zvandisingaite. Zvandiri kukudzidzisai ndizvo zvandinoitawo. Handiende kumberi kwababa. (I am not saying things that I do not practice at home. What I am teaching you is what I also do. I do not undermine my husband),” she said to wild applause.

Speaking on behalf of the chiefs and headman’s wives, Mrs Rufaro Nechombo said she was charmed by the First Lady’s initiative to restore dignity among Zimbabweans through restoring the “Nhanga” concept and African culture.

“We are keen to support Amai’s programmes which are meant to restore our dignity and our culture,” she said.

Chief Seke’s wife, Mrs Naume Chimanikire said she was convinced that young people needed counselling to ensure they avoided early marriages and pursue their careers.

Chief Mukarakate’s wife, Anna Zemura praised the First Lady for her sterling efforts in restoring dignity among the younger generation.

“We should really embrace Amai Mnangagwa’s efforts. May God bless her for restoring our tradition. I am the oldest here. She is our biblical Tabitha. We should support her programmes wholeheartedly,” she said.

The First Lady is also utilising these meetings to help promote economic empowerment models that will unlock potential for thousands of women across the country.

To bolster this concept, a training programme on economic empowerment, conducted through the Angel of Hope Foundation, highlighted viable projects in petroleum jelly and dishwashers production.

More than 100 traditional leaders’ wives attended the training programme.

A team of experts from Angel of Hope Foundation imparted the knowledge it acquired from its patron, First Lady Amai Mnangagwa, to teach traditional leaders’ wives in Harare on how to make petroleum jelly and dish washing liquid as it presses ahead with its empowerment initiatives to uplift women.

This comes at a time when the First Lady has traversed the length and breadth of the country initiating income-generating projects for women to augment their income and meet costs of feeding their families and sending children to school.

During the training of the programme in Mashonaland East, the First Lady ensured that everything was being done to standard by her team that made petroleum jelly and dishwasher.

Angel of Hope Foundation has been involved in many projects with the aim of improving livelihoods.

The projects include making of soap, petroleum jelly, dishwashers and reusable sanitary pads among others.

The First Lady, through Angel of Hope Foundation, went on to give the traditional leaders’ wives starter-packs for them to go back to their communities and begin the detergents and petroleum jelly making projects

To kick-start the projects, the First Lady provided start-up ingredients while basic essentials and maize seed meant to promote the Pfumvudza farming concept were also availed.

Mashonaland East Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Aplonia Munzverengwi promised to work with the wives of traditional leaders to ensure the projects are implemented.

“I will do a follow-up to ensure the projects initiated by the First Lady are implemented. The projects will definitely transform the livelihoods of the people in the province,’’ she said

Speaking at the same occasion, Harare Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Oliver Chidau, who was represented by Provincial Development Coordinator, Mr Tafadzwa Muguti, said there was need to support the First Lady’s programmes to ensure dignity among the younger generation.

Amai Mnangagwa said she would visit the communities to assess the projects in Mashonaland East.

There was jubilation as the First Lady handed over groceries for Christmas and maize seed to the wives of traditional leaders.

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