Earlier this year, Yorkshire Times, an exciting local online newspaper, did a feature on ZET. You can read it on their website in its full glory (http://yorkshiretimes.co.uk/#From-A-to-Z–how-a-Leeds-charity-is-educating-the-women-of-Zimbabwe) or catch it below:
It’s a time of upheaval and change for the African country, but a Leeds charity has set firm plans for the future of young women in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Educational Trust (ZET) based just outside Leeds city centre was founded by resident Vuli Mkandla and provides funding for education for some of the most vulnerable women in Zimbabwe.
Born in Zimbabwe but resident in Leeds for forty years, Vuli originally set up the organisation to support disadvantaged Zimbabweans to access education in the UK.
Now the Trust is supporting young women to access training and education in their own surroundings.
Hannah O’Riordan, Operations Manager at ZET said: “”We are in essence a charity supporting individuals into education as a route out of poverty.
“Though our work has shifted to projects based in Zimbabwe, we continue to be supported by all three Leeds universities, as well as a number of local businesses, companies, schools, churches, charities and patrons – so our local presence is still very much felt.
“Our current work focuses on access to education and human rights, women and girls empowerment, and tackling the effects of poverty and climate change, through working with grassroots partners in Zimbabwe and supporting through fundraising, awareness-raising and outreach work here in Leeds.”
One of ZET’s projects is funding Rafiki, a training and business education programme for young women in Zimbabwe. The centre offers eight month courses for women aged between 17 and 25.
On average two women apply for each place of which there are only 60.
All are vulnerable, most have been abused.
Director of Rafiki, Hildah Mahachi told us how the programme changes the lives of women who have suffered indescribably.
“Patricia is one of the stories you will have read on our website, and she basically used the sewing and cooking skills she learnt at Rafiki to start her own business, designing and making her own clothes and products, baking and catering, and planning and running weddings and functions.
“First and for most, Rafiki gave me hope of life,” Patricia said.
“This is something that I did not have before I came to Rafiki. My future was blank all I know is that I was waiting for a man to marry me.
“Rafiki changed me from a nobody to somebody through giving me knowledge and equipping me with various skills.
I was given hope when I was hopeless. I looked down on myself but this has since changed following training. I now motivate other girls to see bright futures ahead of them even if their current situations seem hopeless.”
“Before the new president came in office I was losing hope… prices have been rising up and it has been difficult to access cash of which in my line of work I use cash to buy everything for business.
“I am hoping that with the change of leadership things will change for better so that my business can continue to run in a normal way. My hope is that positive change in the country will also bring positive change to my business.”
Hilda continues:”Beatrice came to Rafiki unemployed and uneducated with the dream of being a flight attendant, and used the skills she learned at Rafiki to gain a job and save up money to do flight attendant training”.
She now works for an airline.
“The Rafiki training gave me a chance of a lifetime. It was my stepping stone,” says Beatrice.
“I am an independent woman because I am now working and can take of myself and my family.
“I take care of my mother and have managed to put electricity in our house in Epworth, something that I could never have done if I was unemployed.
“My family is very proud of me! I know that besides me, Rafiki has transformed many other girls’ lives.
“I also know that everyone that has given to Rafiki has contributed to changing lives. Thank you Rafiki supporters !!!! My life will never be the same.”
Monica is an orphan raised in a children’s home. Her aspiration was to become a teacher.
She trained in primary school teaching at Rafiki and has used this to work in schools. Now she uses this salary to enrol for a university diploma in teaching.
“The trust has helped me grow physically and spiritually,” said Monica.
“I am working well and trying to develop myself more in every way I can academically.
“The situation in Zimbabwe is making it a bit difficult because you don’t get to be paid your proper salary which affects some areas in my life but I’m happy for now”.
Hilda told us: “Former Rafiki students are optimistic that the change in political leadership will also filter into other facets of the economy.
“They feel that Zimbabwe has potential to bounce back to its former glory, thereby providing opportunities for further development. This is a hope that continues to burn within our hearts at Rafiki and the country at large.
“As for the new girls they are grateful for the opportunity given them to improve their lives and change their misfortunes. Many say they had come to the end of the rope. They appreciate the gap that Rafiki covers for the girl child.
“This the second chance that their family members could not give them.”
Hannah continued and explained more of the support ZET provides.
“Our work is more important now than ever. Another of our partners, Trinity Project, is largely focused on supporting orphaned and vulnerable children, but also does work to provide vulnerable or marginalised women with legal support and advice so that they can fully claim their socioeconomic and civil rights.
“For example, Trinity supported a young women called Thembi who was being raped and abused by her uncle, to take him to court and win legal custody of her house. She had rightfully inherited it but then he had moved in and taken ownership of it ‘as payment for looking after her’.
“Trinity supports vulnerable women to access healthcare, education, social services and their legal entitlements by supporting them with advice, advocating on their behalf to courts, police and other officials, and by working with families and communities to break down the barriers to women’s empowerment.
“At home, the increased interest in Zimbabwe allows this often neglected and misunderstood country to receive much needed attention, and we hope to capitalise on this momentum to mobilise funds and awareness towards our work.”
Written by Scout Beck, Features Writer Yorkshire Times