ZET and Rafiki Girls Centre help around 60 girls each year, providing intensive support and training to offer each and every graduate a second chance into education, employment and opportunity; empowering them to live independently and successfully.
The invaluable support ZET donors have provided to hundreds of women in recent years can be difficult to truly comprehend. Together with Hildah, the director over at Rafiki Girls Centre in Harare, we have collated a few personal stories of ZET supported beneficiaries, and how the training they received thanks to your support and donations transformed their lives.
One such beneficiary is Everyjoy, who has come from great personal difficulty and tragedy, and empowered herself. She has asked us to share her story, so we have done just that.
Everjoy and her brother became orphans at a young age, as both her parents unfortunately died from AIDS. They then moved in with their uncle, but were forced to leave when Everjoy bravely reported him for regularly raping his wife and infecting her with HIV, and he was arrested. She then moved in with an aunt, who sent her brother away to work. Everjoy has not seen him since and was heartbroken by his absence.
This aunt asked Everjoy to get an HIV test, and her life became very difficult when she tested positive. Her aunt did not allow her to sleep in a bed or use the furniture, cook or share utensils with the rest of the family – including a plate, cup, and bath. Not being able to cook made it difficult for her to take her ART medication. Her aunt also stopped paying for her school fees, as she believed Everjoy would die soon and education was a wasted investment. This forced Everjoy to drop out of school and instead, she worked as a maid round the house and for her aunt at the market, told this is how she would pay her way. None of the family respected or cared for her, and she was regularly abused and neglected.
Desperate, she called into a radio show to ask for advice. She was then referred to Rafiki Girls Centre, and lived with the radio show presenter, Dr Makoni, whilst she completed her training. During this time, she slept on a bed for the first time in 8 years and was able to take her medication properly and effectively. Whilst at Rafiki, she received advice and counselling for her positive status and gained the life skills she needed to live independently of her relatives. She worked extremely hard to get onto the exclusive Nurse Aide course, and relished her education in this field.
She finished her training at Rafiki with a qualification in nursing in 2013. Her aunt called her at her graduation, to tell her that now her training was finished, she should come back and work at the market to pay her way. Determined to not return to her former life, Everjoy was helped to find a job by Rafiki and Dr Makoni, who allowed her to stay on at his house until she finds employment and can afford her own place.
Everjoy was so happy to have found a family that accepted her, and looks forward to future where she will be self-reliant. She plans to earn an income so she can pay to sit her O Levels, and then continue her training to become a doctor. She also wishes to track down her brother as soon as she can afford to. She is confident the support and training she received at Rafiki will enable her to transform her life, and is so passionate about this that she wishes to open her own charitable home to help others like Rafiki helped her.
Another beneficiary of the important work at Rafiki is Loveness. Loveness comes from a large, polygamous family. However, her mother and sisters are not loved or respected by the rest of the family, as the mother gave birth to girl children only and so are not as desirable or useful to the patriarch, her father. Her father refused to fund her or her sisters’ education and told them they would never make it in life, encouraging them to marry young instead. Loveness wanted to choose education and employment rather than early marriage, but struggled without the funds or support to do so.
When Loveness heard of Rafiki Girls Centre, she seized the opportunity to prove her father wrong and realise her dreams. She was a dedicated student, and excelled in her sewing skills training. Loveness is now training to be an interior designer, and loves education. She has also started a small business using the skills she learnt at Rafiki, sewing items such as aprons and hats, to raise money for her mother and sisters – particularly their school fees. She hopes to show her father, and men like him, that when girls are given the chance they can be the source of change in their families and communities.
The following three beneficiaries are new students who joined the centre this summer, so although we are yet to see all the incredible things they will be able to achieve when equipped with second chance education, they do each demonstrate the difficult circumstances many of the students face.
When Alice was only a year old, her father died and her mother ran away. She then lived with her grandparents, until they too passed on, and she was forced to live with relatives she hardly knew. Alice struggled to meet school fees and the relatives she now lived with were also unable to cover these. So, although she took her O Levels, her results were withheld because of her debts to the school. Alice went on to take a job as a housemaid, so she could support herself and gain skills.
Through this role she learnt about Rafiki Girls Centre, who could provide her with the training she needs to empower herself, and gain skills, employment and go onto live independently and successfully. At Rafiki, she plans to specialize in tailoring and go onto work in this area in Harare.
Christwishes is an orphan, who lives with her siblings after both her parents died from AIDS. Her and her oldest sister were forced to drop out of school and sell fruit to raise money for the food and rent for the family. She told staff at Rafiki Girls Centre that her life changed completely and became very difficult once her parents had died.
Christwishes wants to come to Rafiki Girls Centre so that she can learn employable skills, and wishes to specialize in sewing. This will enable her to gain an income-generating job, to not only support her family, but to pay for school fees so they can all go back to schools and complete their O Levels. This is her main wish, and learning skills to live independently and gain employability will enable her to complete her education and empower herself.
Vanessa is an orphan who lives with her siblings and extended family. Tragically, after the death of her parents, her house was attacked by a petrol bomb and some of her siblings and relatives were killed. Vanessa survived, with severe burns.
After this heartbreaking incident, she was forced to miss school for a year while she recovered. Without parents to pay her school fees, and having fallen a year behind, Vanessa was forced to drop out of school. Her greatest desire is to break the cycle of poverty her family is trapped in due to low-paid, low-quality employment, by receiving training in a range of skills and going on to obtain a professional job. She would use the income from this to support her relatives and siblings, after all they have done for her.
It can be difficult to recognize what difference your donations and support are making. It is only by digging a little deeper, and asking these truly inspirational women about their stories and their aspirations, that we can begin to recognize how the opportunities provided at Rafiki Girls Centre really can prove transformational, offering women – and often their families – the opportunity to pursue their dreams and prosper.
Written by Hildah Mahachi and Hannah O’Riordan