When Big Brother leaves the playground: The Pastor E Conundrum – QF Chido Mash weighs in…

I have been observing the latest turn of events in the #ThisFlag protest movement with keen interest as well as growing dismay as scores  of Zimbabweans, who only a few weeks ago were lauding Pastor Evan Mawarire as a “hero” and Zimbabwe’s hope for a better tomorrow, are now tearing into him on various social media platforms. He stands accused at best of being a coward who deserted his followers when they needed him most and at worst, of being a political fraud who manipulated the emotions of the people of Zimbabwe as a means of getting asylum in the United States.

In my view, the first accusation is unfair as it fails to take into account the following key observations:

  • Pastor Evan never set out to be the leader of a protest movement. He was just a frustrated citizen who like millions of Zimbabweans, found himself in the unenviable position where he was struggling to provide for his family’s basic needs. That his heartfelt video lament struck a chord within Zimbos the world over and went viral does not automatically transform him into a political leader who is accountable to Zimbabweans at large, no matter how many of us chose to follow him. I think Pastor Evan realised that people were looking up to him and out of his own volition decided to adopt the role of a big brother, speaking for those who might otherwise have been too afraid to speak out.

 

  • Before he became the poster boy for the Zimbabwean protest movement, Pastor Evan was and still is a husband and a father to two young girls. As such, his God-given responsibility is owed first and foremost to his family, and not to the people of Zimbabwe. He has no obligation to put his life at risk and potentially leave a widow and fatherless children just because he dared to speak out against the government (at a time when very few people had the guts to do so). The fact that he has chosen to relocate, whether temporarily or otherwise, to protect his family should not be an issue requiring public consensus nor is it something he should apologise for.

 

  • #ThisFlag is not about one man. It is a rallying cry to all Zimbabweans to rise up and take responsibility for the future we want to see for ourselves and our children. Pastor Evan’s geographical location has nothing to do with the problems we are currently facing in Zimbabwe, nor does it prevent any of us from continuing to speak out against corruption and the other evils plaguing our nation. It doesn’t stop you and I from taking the time to register as voters so that come 2018, we are able to go out in our masses and exercise our democratic right to vote. Your vote DOES count, whether or not you believe it does.

The second accusation, that Pastor Evan is a fraud who misled citizens for personal gain, is equally flawed. This is because it presupposes that Pastor Evan could accurately predict how the #ThisFlag movement would evolve and eventually play itself out. If this theory is true, it would mean that when he made the initial protest video, he knew that:

(a) the video would go viral and that he would gain a cult following;

(b)  he would be arrested and charged with inciting public violence (i.e. the infamous “button stick”);

(c) an unprecedented number of people, including hundreds of lawyers, would turn up at the courthouse to support him, thus turning him into an overnight sensation and raising his public and international profile even more;

(d) the charges would subsequently be changed to the more serious charge of subverting a constitutionally elected government;

(d) the Zimbabwe Republic Police would bungle up the case  and forget to issue a warned and cautioned statement for the new charges,  resulting in the charges being dismissed;

(e) the dismissal of the case and Pastor E’s growing influence would encourage citizens and incite other protest movements like #Tajamuka and #ThisGown to take further action, thus putting him on the government’s radar;

(f) he would be publicly denounced by the highest office in the land, with further threats of incarceration and worse being levelled against him.

(g) he would be forced to flee with his family to South Africa as a result of the threats against his life and liberty.

Pastor Evan would need to have had prior knowledge of all of the above in order to mastermind his clever scheme to deceive the citizens of Zimbabwe into helping him gain international acclaim as a political activist and thus gain asylum in the USA once his life was under threat. Sounds quite ludicrous when you put it like that, doesn’t it?

Apart from requiring one to suspend belief and assume that Pastor E had such prior omniscient knowledge, this accusation is also completely unsupported by any facts. Correlation does not imply causation. The fact that Pastor E may now be eligible for asylum in the US as a result of this turn of events does not mean that he brought about these events in order to get such asylum. It is a sad day when we can go from hailing someone as a man of integrity and principle for so long as he is saying and doing what most of us wish we could and were too scared to do, and then turn around and accuse the same man of manipulation and deceit just because he has made a personal decision that is not favourable to us.

I know some of you will argue that I am just another blind follower who is seeking to silence any criticism against Pastor Evan. Not true. I have no problem with someone expressing their opinion about a public figure, however negative that critique may be, as long as it does not malign and cast aspersions on the integrity of  a man who most of us only know from afar and without any basis to support such accusations, other than rumour and innuendo.

What many refuse to acknowledge is that the anger they feel is not really at Pastor E’s decision to leave. It is rather the pain of the loss of a big brother, someone who we could hide behind when the bully came into the playground while we stood in the background shouting “Ngaarowhe! (hit him)” from a safe distance. If truth be told, Pastor Evan’s fearless stance emboldened many of us to find a voice to speak up against the corruption and injustice in this nation, a voice which had become croaky from disuse and fear. Yes, we were afraid of the very thing Pastor Evan now stands accused of.  With Pastor E gone, that fear is slowly creeping back, together with the uneasy question: Who will defend us now?

We wanted Pastor E to be willing to risk going to prison, to put his neck on the line while we continued to peep over his shoulder. That time has however come to an end. Big brother has left the playground and we are left to confront the bully by ourselves. So we feel betrayed and exposed. Confronted with the reality that we no longer have a champion on the ground who can take the fallout that is the inevitable consequence of any citizen’s protest movement, we want to lash out at someone, and Pastor E is the nearest target for our rage. That anger is however, misplaced and will ultimately lead us nowhere, except to divide us, thus playing into the hands of those who wish to see this movement come to nothing.

It is time for Zimbabweans to realise that the success of this movement will not depend on whichever personality happens to have sparked it, but on the strength of our unity as we stand up for what we know is right and just. Just as we stood united at the courthouse when Pastor Evan was arrested and subsequently released, we need to stand united in our resolve to see the birth of a better Zimbabwe. We need to be willing to stand on our own two feet and realise that we do not need a designated leader in order to accomplish this. There is a potential leader within each of us and we are capable of effecting national change if we are only willing to step out of our comfort zones and be counted.

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Chido Mash

 

 

 

 

An ode to SAM

13 July 2016 – a day that will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans far and wide. Videos and text messages were flying across borders, time zones and social media platforms, as we awaited word on #ThisFlag’s Pastor Evan Mawarire. My  heart hung in my throat many a time; with shivers interrupting my silence from time to time, as I witnessed men and women, belt out songs of praise and worship to the Heavens, crying out to GOD that justice would be served.

By now we should all be up to speed with the current affairs of Zimbabwe. Even if you aren’t a keyboard activist of sorts or social media junky, messages and phone calls must have made their way to you one way or another. I was moved. Moved by Zimbabweans of all races and ages, gathered outside the aptly named “Rotten Row”, waiting for word on the proceedings within. To be honest, I’m still basking in the euphoria of happenings of that day. Passionate posts on the welfare of our country and wellbeing of friends and loved ones trucking on, through the state that is Zim, news headlines which have made their way to international networks and more – the people are alive and wanting a change for Zimbabwe. Even from this far away, a great number of us feel like we were there day in and day out.

My piece today, comes inspired by a picture I saw of Mrs. Mawarire, clad in a red blouse, awaiting word of her husband’s wellbeing. I’ve read several messages of thanks to her for being that mother that has selflessly given up her husband in this season. Those of us married know that it isn’t always easy to stand by the men we love. I am moved by what I imagine to be ethereal strength because Lord knows, I don’t know if I could do it. She stands with him, whom the world now knows as “The Flag Pastor”, watching him valiantly take on a passion that morphed from a few minutes of poetry-like spoken word, to a movement that is giving many in our generation hope of a better Zimbabwe.

I’ve tried to imagine what she had to tell her daughters when they didn’t see daddy after school the day before the trial. I imagined feelings of helplessness, anger, fear, anxiety, heightened stress – and so on – that she not only felt on that day – but today STILL. I can’t speak on how she felt then or what she feels right now, but I am enamored by the woman that is SAM. Sam today stands as a heroine to many of us who too carry the same desires for our nation, who too want a brighter Zimbabwe for our children and who – every single night, pray for their husband and his dreams.

As a wife, and a mother, my heart and sincere gratitude goes out to Samantha Mawarire today, for in her silence, she exudes strength. For those of us that are believers in the GOSPEL, it is easy to see that hers is a peace that can only come from her strength – GOD.

Only GOD can give a woman that much strength, and that much heart, to stay strong when the lives of her loved ones are now in the limelight for many a reason. Many have grown to know and love them through their work while ministering to the youth and young adults. Some of us have grown to love them since the first #ThisFlag video went viral.

Wherever you stand today, I ask that you continue to pray for abundant grace and protection for Sam Mawarire and her family. Her husband, who we are all cheering on from the sidelines, wishing that we too had as much courage as he has shown us in the weeks past – and her daughters, those precious souls who are wondering if daddy is okay – they all need our covering.

Thank you Sam for your endurance then, yesterday and today. Our hearts and prayers continue to make their way to the heavens. It shall be well.

Quintessentially Yours,

The Quintessential F Team

Zimbabwe’s narrative must change

News headlines have been disparaging. The thought of what they are calling bond notes is weakening. Reports of rising costs amid fear of food shortages are all too familiar – and this, is punctuated by an utter resentment towards our government. I know the bible tells us to honor those that have been placed as authorities over us, but how does one do that when they are sleeping on the pavement, guarding a pile of mangoes, tomatoes or second hand shoes, while resting on a pillow of hope that perhaps a sale will be made tomorrow.

Screenshots of news updates, flyers of conferences and dialogue calling for political change and passionate commentary has been streaming across every social media platform. Souls are angry and disappointed. You can almost taste the frustration. I’ve engaged in countless discussions on all matters to be discussed; what it all means, who is behind Zimbabwe’s demise and what we can do even from so far away. I carry my opinions much like the next person and have always maintained that QF is about speaking our truths as women; to help each other as women. I speak to girlfriends and colleagues from far and wide and we are all embattled by what’s going on. What is clear is this; the situation is being further fueled by prophesies of doom, texts and images of banking queues and more corrupt individuals being pardoned after grand larceny in every form. It’s a lot to take in. Just thinking about it now wells up a deep angst within. Where do we go from here?

I’m reminded of the struggles the Israelites endured under the hand of Pharoah. Life in Zimbabwe I imagine feels quite like that. I worry for my parents and extended family, friends and their families and many times words have failed me on how to encourage. I’m fully absorbed because despite being far away from the day to day toils, I have plenty vested in my country. I’m plagued by memories past, of how good Zimbabwe was during our primary and high school years, how things functioned and how justice prevailed. I read a blog post by an individual in the political arena who lamented about how bad things were and that the solution for any and every Zimbabwean was to turn back to GOD and put GOD first in everything. To that I said – “finally, someone among them gets that there is no other way.”

I love the book of ISAIAH as it does well to remind me of GOD’s redemptive power and promises to save his people. I like to think of Zimbabwe as biblical Israel – a nation whose people have gone astray, leaned on their own vices (for survival or as motivated by stress in trying to survive) – and calling on GOD based on how they feel. From drunkenness, adultery, corruption and greed –every kind of sin has now become the norm and is filtering through generations. We have all been left to disillusioned and the devil is at work people. BUT GOD. ISAIAH is a book of survival and a book of promise, packaged in pleas and GOD’s rescuing ability. His promises are real and I do think now is as good a time as any to pick a side.

With GOD, there is only right and wrong. The bible speaks of GOD’s wrath for those that oppress His people. The question begs though, of which side we fall with the passing of each day. Are we the oppressor or the oppressed? Are our actions, knowingly or unknowingly, right or wrong? With GOD, you are either one or the other. Yes, grace is extended to us, but I believe grace runs out too. I believe our nation is experiencing punishment for the sins of the past two decades, from the leadership down to its people – and the line in the sand has been drawn. Which side are we? Will we come out on the other side being able to sleep soundly at night, or will the untold suffering we have caused to someone rise up from the ashes of their pain and come back to haunt us?

As Zimbabweans we have work to do. Whether the struggles of Zimbabwe are a part of our day to day lives or not, we have a role to play in the changes that ensues. The Christ in us must rise and be a part of the restoration that’s needed. Too many lives have been lost, too much pain suffered, yet we have the greatest ammunition to rival any army – the WORD OF GOD. Come on Zimbabwe. Surely our narrative should now change

To all GOD fearing men, woman and children – I will end with such a compelling chapter from the book of Isaiah. May it bring you peace, hope and expectation for a better tomorrow today…

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Yvonne

God Promises to Rescue His People

43 Israel, the Lord who created you says,

“Do not be afraid—I will save you.
    I have called you by name—you are mine.
When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you;
    your troubles will not overwhelm you.
When you pass through fire, you will not be burned;
    the hard trials that come will not hurt you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the holy God of Israel, who saves you.
I will give up Egypt to set you free;
    I will give up Ethiopia[a] and Seba.
I will give up whole nations to save your life,
    because you are precious to me
    and because I love you and give you honor.
Do not be afraid—I am with you!

“From the distant east and the farthest west
    I will bring your people home.
I will tell the north to let them go
    and the south not to hold them back.
Let my people return from distant lands,
    from every part of the world.
They are my own people,
    and I created them to bring me glory.”

Israel Is the Lord’s Witness

God says,

“Summon my people to court.
    They have eyes, but they are blind;
    they have ears, but they are deaf!
Summon the nations to come to the trial.
    Which of their gods can predict the future?
    Which of them foretold what is happening now?
Let these gods bring in their witnesses
    to prove that they are right,
    to testify to the truth of their words.

10 “People of Israel, you are my witnesses;
    I chose you to be my servant,
so that you would know me and believe in me
    and understand that I am the only God.
Besides me there is no other god;
    there never was and never will be.

11 “I alone am the Lord,
    the only one who can save you.
12 I predicted what would happen,
    and then I came to your aid.
No foreign god has ever done this;
    you are my witnesses.
13 I am God and always will be.
No one can escape from my power;
    no one can change what I do.”

Escape from Babylon

14 Israel’s holy God, the Lord who saves you, says,

“To save you, I will send an army against Babylon;
    I will break down the city gates,
    and the shouts of her people will turn into crying.
15 I am the Lord, your holy God.
    I created you, Israel, and I am your king.”

16 Long ago the Lord made a road through the sea,
    a path through the swirling waters.
17 He led a mighty army to destruction,
    an army of chariots and horses.
Down they fell, never to rise,
    snuffed out like the flame of a lamp!

18 But the Lord says,

“Do not cling to events of the past
    or dwell on what happened long ago.
19 Watch for the new thing I am going to do.
    It is happening already—you can see it now!
I will make a road through the wilderness
    and give you streams of water there.
20 Even the wild animals will honor me;
    jackals and ostriches will praise me
when I make rivers flow in the desert
    to give water to my chosen people.
21 They are the people I made for myself,
    and they will sing my praises!”

Israel’s Sin

22 The Lord says,

“But you were tired of me, Israel;
    you did not worship me.
23 You did not bring me your burnt offerings of sheep;
    you did not honor me with your sacrifices.
I did not burden you by demanding offerings
    or wear you out by asking for incense.
24 You didn’t buy incense for me
    or satisfy me with the fat of your animals.
Instead you burdened me with your sins;
    you wore me out with the wrongs you have committed.
25 And yet, I am the God who forgives your sins,
    and I do this because of who I am.
I will not hold your sins against you.

26 “Let us go to court; bring your accusation!
    Present your case to prove you are in the right!
27 Your earliest ancestor[b] sinned;
    your leaders sinned against me,
28     and your rulers profaned[c] my sanctuary.
So I brought destruction on Israel;
    I let my own people be insulted.”

Zimbabwe flag2

Meet Zimbabwean Youth Shaper Shingi Nyamwanza

CHANGING THE WORLD ONE PERSON AT A TIME WITH 4-H AFRICA MD SHINGI NYAMWANZA

A good bit of time has passed since we first shared our interview with inspirational 4-H Africa MD Shingi Nyamwanza. A friend to the Quintessential F mission, we are thankful that she allowed us the opportunity to share her story on making impactful change through Africa’s youth. We had to share again simply because well…a great testimony never gets old. Introducing Shingi Nyamwanza…

Shingi Nyamwanza

Shingi Nyamwanza. Who is she and what is her quest in life?

I’m God’s daughter first. I came to know Him late in life (early 20’s) but can’t imagine walking this journey without Him. I tried that whole “superwoman I can do everything on my own” and a lot of times just ended up falling flat on my face. Next, I’m a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend and a friend. I’m an idealist, surprisingly, an introvert, pretty private and more sensitive than people realize. Now that I’m settled in who I am, I’m on a quest to leave this world a little better than when I entered it. I want people, especially in Africa to know that you can do some powerful development work in the nonprofit space without being and looking broke and beat down. Community impact does not equal a poverty mentality.

You were born in Germany, raised in Zimbabwe, and spent a significant portion of your adult life in the United States and are now resident on our beloved continent. What did you learn about yourself during your tenure out west that you believe has made you into the woman you are today?

I learned about God, and really that means I, learned about who I am. Not sure I have it all the way figured out but I’m enjoying the ride. I learned that you don’t have to be perfect or pretend to be. And it’s okay if you don’t always fit in. Life is less painful when you’re just yourself.

I learned that family and close friends are important to me. I can’t live anywhere where I’m not in close proximity to both- yes 14 years in the diaspora to figure that one out.

I love a challenge, especially in unchartered territory – new projects, new roles etc. They always seem to find me. From running my Uni’s first ever freshman residential program, to being my orgs first international hire. When you’re in the diaspora and trying to find your way, you end up doing things you never knew you had the strength or courage to do. At the time I wished for a simpler, more defined and structured life like my fellow American classmates, but now I thank God that my life took so many twists, turns and dips. It’s made me more open-minded, resilient, spontaneous and adventurous. I guess looking back, I really walked the verse,  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. God, through my experiences, has made me bolder and more confident in who He created me to be. My former CEO used to tell me “the world is waiting for you to seize the brass ring. Don’t miss it because it will be awhile before it comes back around”.  When I finally trusted myself to grab it, the world just opened up.

What called you back to the motherland?

God’s calling which manifested as a determined commitment to helping shape what happens to my momma Africa. I always used to say that there are plenty of intelligent women shaping and growing N. America. They don’t really need me and probably wouldn’t miss me but Africa does (well I’d like to think so) . More specifically, after I really wrapped my mind around the 4-H model in the US, it ignited a commitment and belief in the power of Africa’s young people. Countries like China and the US have succeeded in some part by investing in and education young people.  Also, there’s something about the beauty and complexity that is momma Africa that just sucks you in. We are such a rich continent ,not just in terms of natural resources, but in terms of human spirit and opportunities. The sooner we start to see ourselves with that lens the faster and higher we’ll rise. Secondly, my point above about family and friends. I so deeply longed for my family and my “clique” while I was away. Not to say I didn’t make some of the most amazing friends while I was abroad but there’s something about doing life with your ‘tribe’ (I don’t mean that literally) and your ‘people’. If gives you that extra fire in your belly.

At what point in your life were you enticed by the notion of giving back to the community through working with today’s youth?

I’ve always been a softy at heart. I just don’t always come off that way. I wish I had one of those ah ha moment stories where I can say I just knew that this was my passion and calling. To be honest, I love what I do but I’m still not 100% sure I know what my calling/passion is. In fact, I got here because I knew what I didn’t like more than I knew what I liked and wanted to do. I had no clue what I wanted to do after business school. I knew I wanted to do something that involved social impact but that was only after spending 2 years in the corporate world – I knew that pure undiluted corporate life wasn’t for me. When I had this realization, I was working for GE and doing pretty well. My contract was coming to an end and I remember interviewing with Merrill Lynch and telling the MD that money didn’t motivate me. Imagine the look of horror on this man’s face, lol! Here I was interviewing for a sales role within his investment portfolio and I had the nerve to say, “money doesn’t motivate me”. And I remember saying it with such conviction! Still not sure why he offered me that job. I asked him to give me a few weeks to think about it and he obliged. Must have been a slow hiring year lol. That week I prayed that God would come down with a booming voice and tell me what to do. Yeah, we know how that played out… One day I was searching online and I came across a job in resource development for a nonprofit that  I’d never heard of (assisting senior fundraisers in convincing fortune 500 partners to invest in America’s young people). They offered me half of what Merrill Lynch was offering but I took a leap of faith (not sure I knew that that’s what I was doing), accepted the offer and drove cross country to the big city – DC. My friends all thought I was loco. What MBA leaves GE, turns down an offer from Merrill Lynch and goes to work for a relatively unknown nonprofit focused on children?! As you can imagine the calls and emails from the parents didn’t stop that year. They too thought their child was going through a major life crisis.

I wish I could say that at that moment the sun got brighter, the birds started singing, the angels broke out in song and all was right in my world. It was tough going at first. I was asked to do a lot of writing – which I hated at the time. I had to learn the ways of nonprofit life and for a while I thought I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. I remember thinking and even telling my then boss that, I’ll probably do 3 years here at most. God had other plans, as He always does. As I learned more about this organization that empowers young people to change communities, countries and economies I started to see a bigger role for 4-H in Africa. God certainly gave me that  vision because to drive the point home, my CEO at the time wasn’t only God fearing but shared my vision for 4-H making an impact in Africa. He just happened to have been raised in Ghana and we just happened to just get along and still have a strong mentor/mentee relationship that goes both ways. At the time we didn’t have a global strategy let alone a globally focused staff. They’d done away with that in the 80’s or 90’s. But it just felt right. He’d come into my office, prop his feet up and we’d go on and on about Africa. It was then that I started to feel alive. I took on extra projects for him.  I remember doing work that an MBA “technically shouldn’t do”, like book travel and meetings but it connected me back to my motherland so I gave it my all. It was then that I discovered my passion for Africa, youth and the power our young people possess to change and accelerate our continents trajectory.

SHingi2

As a young woman holding such a high ranking position in a multinational organization, how do you feel you have carved a place for yourself where a vast majority of society believes such positions should be held by our male counterparts?

It’s just a fancy title ;-). The real work is done by our country partners but I am very grateful and humbled to have gotten an opportunity to do important work, on a continent I love, and with some amazing youth workers across the continent.

It’s pretty simple, I can’t be anyone but me. My dad taught me a long time ago, that I am just as smart, just as capable and just as worthy as any boy sitting next to me. So I don’t try to be like a man or make a point that I’m a woman, I just do me. God created me in His perfect image and created this path for me so I let Him lead and I follow where He takes me. There have been many occasions where I have walked into meetings and people ask me where my boss is. I just laugh it off and get to work. Usually what I bring to the table in terms of ideas and hard work “levels the playing field” in their eyes. No need to get mad or prove a point.

What do you think from your experiences and interactions, are some of the toughest challenges that today’s young people battle with?

It still amazes me that we don’t give young people the voice they deserve in Africa. I was on a panel at an AU agriculture (AG) focused conference and after my comments, a more mature gentleman calmly put his hand up and said “you young people need to learn from us and not just think you have all the answers”. Ag is still an ‘older’ profession in Africa (average age of a farmer is 65) so I shouldn’t be too surprised at his comments. Caught me unawares especially because nowhere in my comments did I allude to the fact that we (young people) had all the answers or that I didn’t respect or appreciate the lessons learned and roads travelled by the more mature people in the room. What that made me realize is that in a society where jobs and opportunities seem limited, young people are always seen as a threat as opposed to part of the economic development solution. One thing I admire about the 4-H model and how it was a part of America’s transformation, is that young people were and still are given leadership roles and a voice amongst pretty senior corporate and/or government officials to express their needs and ideas. Innovation and ideas don’t just come from the ‘mature’ or tenured. Some of the most brilliant ideas and innovations come from young people in the most remote locations. I’ve seen it myself in rural Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and others. We have got to do better by our young people by creating a platform for us to not only voice our ideas but create opportunities to bring those ideas to life through incubation hubs, business mentors, youth funds etc. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are many models to learn from around the world.

You were not so long ago appointed as the Managing Director of 4-H Africa. Please share with our audience what 4-H is and how this opportunity has impacted your life?

So I’m actually the MD, Africa for Global Clover Network (GCN), a wholly owned subsidiary of National 4-H Council. National 4-H Council is the nonprofit partner of 4-H headquartered in USDA. GCN is tasked with supporting independent country lead 4-H partners around the world. 4-H is actually a US Government (USDA) organization that dates back to President Abraham Lincoln. The Smith Lever Act of 1862 gave each state a piece of land (grant) to build a university (Land Grant Universities). Think Cornell, Ohio State, Michigan State, Tuskegee etc. As part of this grant, each university had to establish an extension arm to deliver research from the university into the community. There’s a youth component of that extension work called 4-H. The story goes, that 4-H was part of the engine that moved the US from being an agrarian society to an industrialized one. Young boys would adopt new technologies of farming from their 4-H clubs, teach their parents and communities, increase production, and as a result people could engage in other areas of the economy further up the value chain. I’m always impressed by the vision and foresight President Abraham Lincoln had to think of such an intricate system to educate communities. Today, 4-H is found in every country and state in the US. This idea, like any good idea, began spreading around the world some 60 years ago. The unique thing about 4-H is that it defines youth from 5 years old right up to 18 and some countries 25. Basically, we start them early in taking an ownership of the development of their community. All done in partnership with a caring adult, while mastering a skill and taking on leadership roles within the club and community. What I like about 4-H is that it’s not a US planted organization or model. Local community volunteers around the world who are passionate about young people normally adapt it from information they find on the web, from development workers (many who are former 4-H’ers), extension workers that travel abroad, or their own visits to the US. I love it because it’s an organic model that’s spread on its own and is always adapted to the local culture and norms. My job is to work with those local independent, country-led  4-H organizations across Africa to create sustainable strategies to engage more young people. The impact on my life has been huge! I’ve met and shared stories with people from all works of life across the world. From presidents to local super hero teachers to young boys and girls working hard to improve the ecosystem that they are a part of. We all want the same thing – To create a better life for ourselves and our families. Collectively, that’s powerful! I see God at work in what I do.

Given the current socio-economic challenges of your home country Zimbabwe, if you could facilitate a social change initiative for youth and young adults in Zimbabwe, what would your platform or area of concentration be?

That’s easy – agriculture. I NEVER thought I’d end up in this sector but over the last 5 years, I’ve seen such amazing opportunities for young people. I’ve seen 15 and 16 year olds feed entire schools from their 4-H produce and sales. I’ve seen the same 4-H’ers adopt HIV orphans and pay for school fees also from their 4-H businesses. One of my colleagues likes to say “no farmer no nation”. Zimbabwe has to go back to being the breadbasket of Africa. There is no excuse BUT  let’s not stop at production, let’s get young people engaged all along the value chain. The truth is we all need food, and the world needs food. So as a country and as a continent we need to step up to the plate to help feed ourselves, the world and to create jobs in this vital sector. And then as we develop we do as others in the US, Canada, Europe have done – add programs in science, engineering, technology and math, healthy living, citizenship etc. The list is endless!

Which of your fondest memories come to mind when you hear our continent’s name AFRICA?

Definitely, growing up in Zimbabwe. I would argue that we had the best upbringing. Great schools, safe neighborhoods and just general good living. I always say that when I have kids, I would love for them to grow up in the Zimbabwe I grew up in.

Share with our readers a day in the life of Shingi?

I wish there was such a thing. I can safely say no 2 days are the same. It’s the joys of working for a nonprofit in development and working remotely from my home office with partners scattered across Africa and colleagues in Washington DC. It takes a lot of discipline and commitment that’s for sure. It varies, from conferences, to donor engagement to conference calls in my home office, to car rides to the most remote parts of our beautiful continent tp 4-H club meetings. But each day is littered with a gym session (working on making those daily), chats with my Abba, my love, whatsapping with my girlfriends and my family. I don’t have normal office hours. That doesn’t happen when you have colleagues  and partners scattered across multiple time zones.

Who is GOD in your life and how do you feel your relationship with him has shaped your life?

Where to start? Father, Provider, Way Maker, Miracle Producer, Lover, Fear Destroyer, Motivator…  Basically He’s life. As I said earlier I wasn’t raised in the church so coming to Christ was a late-in-life conscience decision. I was one of those that thought that as soon as I said that magical salvation prayer, life would all be roses and butterflies. I’ve had some “Job” moments especially during my Uni years but I wouldn’t take back a single one because they all brought me so much closer to my Father and shaped the woman I am today. Now that I’m learning that this is a journey, the focus is not about how many times I go to church, what fancy “religious sayings” I can rattle off. it’s  a personal, loving and living relationship. Each day is a another opportunity to get to know Him by a different name.

Have you ever had a really difficult season in your life wherein you almost felt like throwing the towel in; and if so – how did you forge through the murky waters?

Haven’t we all? Joys of growing up. I always say, that I wish someone would have given me a step by step manual with very specific instructions. Should have started reading the Bible sooner :-). I’ve never been a quitter. Guess my parents named me appropriately. To be honest, it’s all just a lot of prayer, waking up each day and choosing to put one foot in front of the other and reminding myself that ‘trouble don’t last always. Joy comes in the morning.” And I’ve learned that it always does. Sermons, my favorite gospel songs and encouragement from my family, my love and my girls definitely help me when the going gets really tough.

Let’s put you on the spot here for a little bit. Who are the most important people in your life and why?

My Babi (dad) – he’s the most loving man I know. He gave me a healthy sense of how a man should treat a woman. My mom used to say, “You need to be realistic, you’re not going to find a man like your babi.” I think she was wrong ;-).My mom – we used to fight like cats and dogs when I was growing up, like most moms and daughters do, but now we’re besties. We are so similar in terms of our strong will. She is a pillar of strength. She always knows the right amount of tough love and encouragement to dish out. My lil sister aka bugga. She is my inspiration in a lot of areas of life – God, love and family

If you could embark on a road trip from Cape to Cairo – which 3 people would you want to enjoy the ride with and why…and yes, you can only take 3 people along!

Goodness! I’d actually only take one. My love. He is a laugh a minute and always down for some fun! He’s also my taskmaster, motivator and an earthly manifestation of how much God loves me. Who needs 3 people when you have all that in one? 😉

If your career was not in youth development, which one of your passions would you pursue?

Something in health. I was convinced I was going to be a doctor but then I realized I don’t do mucus, pus, and blood. So maybe health policy. I’m not one of those people with a distinct passion(s).I used to think there was something wrong with me but the older and I get and the more honest I am with my friends, the more I realize there are a few of us none “specific passionate” people out there

Defining moment for 2014?

Trusting God and moving to SA. It’s been one miracle after another. The last 10 months have been everything I’ve prayed and hoped for  – He’s done exceedingly abundantly, above all I could ask or think

Three items on your bucket list?

Getting married, having babies and… Let me get back to you 🙂

What does Shingi do to relax?

Watch mindless TV or read

Favorite read of all time?

That’s a tough one because I read a lot. Don’t think I have just one favorite.

Part of QFs mission is emphasizing to women the beauty of pursuing ones goals and living out their purpose on earth as best they can. On pursuing our goals and chasing our dreams as women, what practical advice do you have for QFs out there?

Trust yourself! As women we are stronger and more resilient that we give ourselves credit for. Take the leap and do what God has called you to do. And if you don’t know what that is yet, that’s perfectly okay. Sometimes He reveals the pieces of the puzzle as we walk with Him. In fact, I believe that’s how it happens for most of us. He’s just asking us to take the first step.  The journey will reveal so many things about who you are and what’s important to you. Take a step at a time, enjoy each day/moment and learn from it all. One day, you’ll look up and realize you are exactly where you’ve always wanted to be. At least I did. Grab that brass ring and enjoy the ride. Your future self will thank you…

Final words from Shingi?

Do the best and be the best you can be. No one owes you anything. Work hard, do your best, and trust that God has a perfect plan. I know all too well from my own dark moments and valleys that some days it doesn’t feel that way but if you trust God and yourself and work the plan, the world has endless opportunities just waiting for you to step up, do and be all you have been called to do and be…

The Heart Behind DEMOYO

Paidemoyo Mazhandu, Designer of Zimbabwean-birthed Fashion Line DEMOYO Shares Her Story

In our quest to keep the inspirational juice coming, Quintessential F was incredibly blessed to sit down with International Fashion Designer – Paidemoyo Chideya of DeMoyo, our very own Zimbabwean sister who has not only broken boundaries in the fashion world as one of Africa’s upcoming designers to watch, but took the bold step to move back to Zimbabwe after 23 years of living abroad – to make all things DeMoyo happen on and  from home ground.  With her line now sold also from Truworth’s stores (yeap – that’s a big deal!!) we hope her words shape your understanding of the notion of “all things are possible” as they have done for us. Enjoy…

Pai

Tell us, who is Paidemoyo Chideya Mazhandu?

She is a little spark of the Creator encased in a person called Paidemoyo Chideya Mazhandu.

Take us through a day in the life of Paidemoyo Chideya at DeMoyo?

A typical day starts at 5:30am. The rest of the day with variance, will comprise of fabric shopping, designing, sketching, invoicing, meeting with my tailors, adjusting clothes and working on the next collection, cleaning my house, computer work and developing my ideas further. I try and shut down by 6pm, so I can have family time with my husband.

Where does your design mind draw inspiration?

It can be anything from God, to my mother, to “prowess” (a recent season of mine), to my colour of the moment, to trees, to my mood – anything.

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Who is God in your life?

God is everything. Without God, I do not exist.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge as a designer to date and how have you overcome it?

Challenges come up everyday. The biggest challenge if I was to be more specific was probably proving to myself that I could actually become exactly what I wanted to become. Many people told me that I didn’t have what it took to do what I do. I overcame it by believing in myself and staying extremely focused on my goal, and doing just a little bit everyday.

You are a citizen of the world having lived in some of the world’s fashion capitals (London, New York, Paris) what made you come back to Zimbabwe?

You can live in all the countries in the world, but you only have one home.  It was time to come back to my roots after 23 years.

Who is your support system?

God, my husband and my mother, and when he was still alive my father as well. That being said, my brother is also my biggest supporter. They know how challenging this work is and they still push me to be better, to fight harder and to keep going.

At what point in your life did you know that being a designer is what you were called to do?

It was a specific moment, in my first year of college at Parsons School of Design, when I attended my very first fashion show in Paris, and it was a Valentino show in 1997. #lifechanging for me. It was then, that I knew.

A big congratulations – cue happy dance on your behalf as the DeMoyo line is now available in Truworths.  What does this milestone mean to you?

Thank you very much. When I started DeMOYO, I did so with the intention of creating a vertically integrated system that would stem from Zimbabwe, were we grow the cotton, make the fabric, create jobs particularly for women and the girl child and produce local goods for the nation and also for export. Our nation has been inundated with cheap Chinese goods, and this has created a vacuum and a massive problem in our manufacturing industry, where Zimbabwe was a leader in this sector. It’s very important that we address these issues immediately, otherwise our children will suffer much more than we are locally. Working with Truworths, has given  me hope and had opened a window that’s allowing the consumer to focus on the local market- even if its just a little bit… but it’s a start.

You have worked with some well recognised designers – Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors.  What would you say are the three lessons you learnt from these designers that has influenced your work ethic and how you approach your designs?

1) Dreams come true. 2) Stay true to your vision and what you want to say to the world. 3) You can become the highest paid fashion associate in the world….if you want to.

From your long list of achievements including a show room in the Vera Wang building in New York to name a few, what would you say is your greatest achievement?

Hard question: On a very personal note, it’s the idea that I can wake up everyday and do what I want to do. Most people don’t have that privilege, but I have been blessed enough to do what I want to do.  Of course, there are events, shows, awards, etc., but those are perks – they are moments.  Even though its work, I get to play all day.

How do you maintain a balance with the many hats you wear?

I have to create healthy boundaries, because if it were up to me, I would be working 24/7. But I have a family now, so I have to draw a line on a daily basis, and make sure that its all flowing.

We at QF love how you are conscious about sustainable development in your designs.  How have you incorporated this eco consciousness in the DeMoyo line for Truworths, Zimbabwe

Well, it starts off with simple things like using fabrics that are as natural as possible, that are not over processed, and that have as little chemicals as possible. This is not so easy these days because organic fabrics, for example in this environment are hard to come by. But it also boils down to the person that’s sewing the garment – what are their working conditions?  Have they been paid well? How am I supporting their wellbeing?

What advice would you give to women out there who have put their dreams on the back burner?

Well, you don’t want to wake up with regrets. It’s very important for a woman to ensure that her joy comes first. When she does that, she can be 1000 times better, because she’s giving to herself through her dreams. It’s a massive gift from God that we tend to take for granted, or perhaps we don’t understand.  We also have a responsibility to follow our dreams, that’s the whole point of being alive.

When you aren’t choosing fabrics and perfecting your sketches what do you to relax and pamper yourself?

Hanging out with my boo. LOL. I love live music, I love to read, I love to cook, and a massage here and there never hurts.

What pearls of wisdom has your mother given you that you apply to your life today?

Mom would always say as I grew up, “Your best is good enough for us” – so whatever grade for example that I got at school, as long as it was my best, it was perfect.  I apply that everyday with my work and with what I do. As long as it’s my best it’s good enough. So you can imagine, I push quite hard, because I have to do my best. But when I fail, and I do everyday at something, it provides me with an opportunity to grow, develop and evolve.

What do you love most about being based in Zimbabwe right now?

I’m home.  My family is here, the food is organic and the sky is the limit.

Where do you see DeMoyo in ten years?

Flagship stores across the world 🙂

Meet DEEKAWZEE Jewellery Designer TAKUDZWA CHITSIKE

Takudzwa Chitsike Speaks “DEEKAWZEE” and Growing a Proudly Zimbabwean Jewellery Brand

We love DeeKawZee and even more so, the brand’s designer Taku Chitsike. Vibrant a personality, tenacious and brand savvy, she has done an incredible job illustrating how it is possible to turn one’s passion to profits even in a tough environment. We shared this interview a little over a year ago, so naturally much has changed since we sat down with Taku in 2014. Her story still remains inspirational to those of us who wonder how we can create a business out of something that we love despite our academic background and perhaps expectations from loved ones. Taku shared…

263772340452 Taku Chitsike

So we have only ever heard of you being referred to as “Taku” – but naturally we would love to know all there is to share about you which is why Quintessential F had to sit down and have a chat with you. Tell our readers who Taku is and describe to them what makes you uniquely you?

My name is Takudzwa Runyararo Chitsike. I never used my middle name but apparently people decided that they were going to start calling me by my full name. So hey, it is my name so I might as well embrace it fully.

On how I describe myself; goodness – that’s a really hard question to answer because I’m so many things. I’m fun loving; generally a very happy person but very hardworking. I believe in hard work paying off. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow but it will pay off at some stage so I push myself to the very last measure on everything. If I’m cleaning the house I’m cleaning the house till its squeaky and spotlessly clean. So everything I do, I will do it 110% because I believe somewhere somehow doing it that way will always pay off.

I’m 33, not married, and I don’t have any children just yet. That’s me in a nutshell.

We talk to a lot of women and they describe a vast array of experiences that led to them finding their life’s mission or pursuing their passion. How did you get started on your journey?

I can safely say that when I was really young, I always had a creativity jist about me. I used to knit as we had knitting classes at school, but then I would always bring my knitting home and I would then convert my knitting into other little things. I used to dress my dolls; I used to make wigs for myself and so on. So I was always very good with making stuff. I guess my parents being the old school parents that they are; it was like “No, school! Go to school and pursue a formal career.”

I wanted to be a fashion designer. So throughout my years at school – for occasions like leavers’ dances I used to design my friends’ dresses, draw them and come up with the outfits. Then came to picking varsity after A’ levels. I told my parents I wanted to go to the States as that was the best place I could go for fashion design school. My parents laughed at me so loud (she chuckles) and made it clear it wasn’t going to pan out that way. I’m the youngest in my family. My older sister was just finishing law school. My brother was in university pursuing a degree in hospitality. So from the perspective of my parents, I had to follow suit. I didn’t have the money to even contest their decision. I then went to the same varsity as my brother in Cape Town and attended law school.  I went all the way to Masters Level in Law.

I then finished law school and basically announced that it was time to do my own thing. I looked for schools and I then pursued a diploma in image consultancy also in South Africa. After that again my parents said for me to go back to pursuing law. I looked for a place to do my articles. I completed my articles and worked in practice for quite a while. As the story goes – I hated it. I suppose GOD directs your path because I then got a horrible boss.  This boss I felt didn’t like me and she made my life a total misery. Literally, a week wouldn’t go by without me bursting out into tears because I was that miserable.

A little while later I had an accident wherein I broke my toe. I wasn’t allowed to go to work for about a week. During that time I came to the realisation that life was SO COOL away from work. I wasn’t stressed, things were good. I felt relaxed, free. So I told myself I couldn’t go back as my life wasn’t going in the direction that I wanted it to go in. So I got up on a Friday, went into the office as usual, opened my laptop and typed in my resignation letter right there and then, put it in an envelope and decided I wasn’t going to be one of those people that would sneak out given my boss wasn’t in the office at that moment. I stayed the whole day up until 3pm so I could give her the letter when she came back. She came in and I gave her the letter. Naturally she was upset also because I expressly stated that I wasn’t serving notice – I was leaving now.

I told my mom I was packing up my place in Joburg and was coming to live with her in Pretoria. My mom is in the NGO world so she travels a lot. A lot of the times I would be at home on my own. I started getting bored and I thought of what I could do with myself. I had started an image consultancy business but it wasn’t going as I had expected given my newness in the industry. I then decided to get something to entertain myself and this “entertainment” came in the form of beading, and playing around with tools for making jewellery and so on. I slept at about 3am for two days trying to figure out how to bend stuff and do this and that until I got the hang of it.

I started selling at friends’ baby showers, parties and in that process, I decided I was moving back to Zimbabwe. You see in South Africa everything is in abundance. You can walk into any mall and find every type of earring or jewellery. At that time I realised there were no retailers like “Accessorize” who specialise solely in jewellery or accessories. I wanted to do that. I started like most people – selling things out of the boot of my car; driving around to office parks and telling people I was selling stuff. I kept pushing until I opened a store. It ran for a little while but my overheads were so high. I was so upset when a friend of mine said to close the shop. She believed I could so this without a store. So I closed the shop.

I started working from my spare room and distributing in other people’s stores. I started off with my stuff in one store. Now there are about 6 stores that carry my jewellery. Edgars has just taken me on. I’m trying to also push Truworths. I also do things like fairs. You can find me at Borrowdale Flea Market every Sunday.

I’m now working on a new project called MUCHENO where I take on other designers and promote their work like I promote my brand. I will take their products everywhere I go to sell my products. I’m doing it to promote them and also to illustrate to them that your passion can also be your profession. We must get out of this mind set of our parents’ generation of thinking that going to school is limited to certain professions. Going to school isn’t a bad thing – but there are different types of schools now like jewellery design school, cooking school and so on. You can go to school for something that you are passionate about.

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What’s your definition of Entrepreneurship particularly in the Zimbabwean environment?

I think we have all by default become entrepreneurs in one way or another. We are all selling tangible goods or providing some sort of service that’s not the usual. I believe putting yourself out there and looking for something that you are passionate about can inadvertently make you an entrepreneur. I emphasise the need for passion because without it, you will not feel energised to get up each day and pursue what it is you are doing. You need that passion to fuel you. There’s a difference between someone saying “I sell stuff” and being an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship – that is having a business, is an asset that’s not just about having something to do. It’s a bigger asset than retail to have your own business. It’s about getting people aware that that’s today’s reality and your passion is your reality. There are so many people doing what I do but you will never know who they are. They are pursuing their passions out of their homes, selling to people at church, selling to their friends but not really pushing themselves to making it a viable business.

In my case my passion has become my business to the extent that I can pay my bills from doing what I do and I can survive off of my passion. When I first started people laughed at me. Some even went to the extent of saying “Oh please, she’s bending little wires there’s no way she can be successful at that.” I told myself and them to stay tuned and watch it happen. Some of my biggest supporters now were actually quite embarrassed to say that I was making jewellery when asked what I was up to. They have since come to note that I am actually turning something that I love into a livelihood and are cheering me on.

Where do you get your design inspiration from? What inspires you to design a specific piece?

I have now realised that this is my purpose. I dream up designs. I have my phone beside me every day wherein I then use it to sketch in the event that I have a dream. I also read a lot. Magazines are my thing. I used to work for Jewel Magazine and do their fashion editing. I’m a huge picture fan so to be honest I don’t usually read articles in-depth. The visuals within magazines are what sink into my mind and I then use those for inspiration. When I go to the stores where I buy the materials that form my designs, I don’t usually buy things that I know how to use. I buy stuff I don’t know how to use and I can keep it for 6 months because I don’t know how to use it. Then at some point I figure out how it works.

In your journey to get to where you are today, what was the most difficult aspect or point in your life that gave you the impetus to seek out your passion apart from not enjoying your career in the legal fraternity?

For me it had to do with my move back to Zimbabwe. My father had been ill for quite some time and I felt like I was missing out on what was happening back home because I could effectively only come home once a year or so. Missing my dad and not spending enough quality time with me was a driving force. My dad was also a creative person; an amazing author of Shona books – so he supported my creative side. He understood my passion. I knew if I came back home he would be that person who would drive me to chase after my passion.

The name of your brand! We Shona people know the term “dhikauzi” to be representative of earrings. What made you choose that name as opposed to calling it something more contemporary?

When I was growing up I used to love huge earrings so my mom used to say stuff like “Mmmm ava mai ava nema dhikauzi avo ava” (“Mmm this lady and her earrings”). So I heard that word almost on a daily basis as I wore my different types of massive earrings. The name of my brand was therefore to me a no brainer but I wanted it to have some swag hence the spelling.

How do you describe the type of jewellery that you make?

It’s basically costume jewellery – not your precious stone or precious metal jewellery. It’s a mix really. When I first started off I had a lot of contemporary chandelier style earrings. As I grew I started realising that the ethnic trend was in so I have been mixed ethnic trends in there as well. Now it anything that’s fashionable. If its metal or fabric I’m there. There is no material that I’m afraid to use. I did a runway show at HIFA this year and used goat hide in some of my designs and people were fascinated.

Where do you source your materials?

Sourcing my materials locally has been a challenge as it is quite limited at present and the price points are unfavourable. I get most of my supplies from South Africa and anywhere else as my mom travels a lot so is able to bring me interesting pieces. I’ve been known to receive a gift and snap it in half to make something else. It’s the creative in me at work when that happens.

You’ve garnered significant success with your brand to date and your name is fast becoming a household name where local design and jewellery is concerned. How old is Dhikawzee?

I started designing jewellery for sale in 2011. It’s amazing how the brand has moved from being nothing to what it is today. Now I’m getting people in South Africa calling me and asking if I can come and do a show and that’s a big deal for me. My personality helps to because I talk to so many people about so many different things so it makes it easier to push your brand and create publicity for it. I really put myself out there. A brand is not solely about a product but the person behind it. Take Richard Branson for instance. People support his brand because of the person he is. By putting myself out there and advertising myself I am able to push my brand. I have to be that ambassador.

I am working on a MUCHENO online store as I have seen a move towards the online storefront. The beauty of accessories is that you don’t have to try something on to buy it. I am hoping to make the MUCHENO brand an Africa wide network as I endeavour to move beyond our borders. Our trends are all similar as Africans and I want to be the conduit by which to bring designers from across the continent together on an online platform.

How do you feel the Zimbabwean woman or entrepreneur is placed in terms of synergising and working together with one another?

We are getting better. When I first came back it was pretty cut throat. People didn’t want to work together and everyone was sensitive about competition. We have to learn to work together so as to make a larger impact on the platform in which we operate. If we don’t put differences aside and focus on the objectives at hand we hinder each other from growing. Because we live in such a small society in Zim we have to find a way to work together because in truth there isn’t much by way of escape.

Who is GOD to you?

I have been blessed. I cannot for the life of me not stop on a regular basis and think “WOW”. GOD has taught me patience. As people we are always in such a hurry. Things I prayed for when I was in high school are materialising now and I literally stop and think OMG. I am so blessed. I recently won the ZNCC Woman in Enterprise Award and I was up against some really phenomenal women. It’s overwhelming to think about what GOD has done for me. I am so grateful. I may not be the richest person but I am so happy. My happiness is not defined by having a husband or children but by my purpose feeling fulfilled by my passion.

As a single woman, by single we mean unmarried – what are some of the sentiments that you have had posed to you about how you live your life and how do you choose to debunk them?

I believe that many people in our society don’t realise that we are moving out of the conventional space. I believe it’s our parents and their counterparts’ generation who are struggling to accept how our generation is changing. People always ask why I am not married at this stage in my life or why I don’t “opt” to have children. Some have asked me what the problem is and I have adamantly stated that there is no problem. I am trying to fulfil my dreams first because there is a certain lifestyle that I want to have and want for my children to have. I do not want my children to have less than what I had. Right now with the way our economy is and how things are looking I have to work that much harder. I have made the decision not to put my children in a position of having less than I had. I find that a lot of times we are valuing certain things that are in many ways valueless.

For me it’s not about having a certificate of marriage to feel like I am supported or loved. There are people who are married and have partners that do not support them.  There are people who are married and living in the same house but living completely separate lives. I am happy where I am right now. I have great people in my life who support me; whether it be my partner in life or my sister. Many women are looking for a man to be the end all and be all in their lives, and when he doesn’t fit the part according to their expectations, they blame him when in actual fact, he is just being himself. I am so comfortable in my space and I thank GOD for that.

What has been your highlight for 2014?

For me there have been many. HIFA was one as it was my first runway show.  I had never done a ramp show before and it was amazing. It was amazing in that it grew me. It was such a stressful time for me. I carried the burden of making the product as well as putting the show on. No one gets to see all the commotion happening backstage.

The second one was winning the ZNCC Woman in Enterprise Award. I was first runner up in that category but I did not expect it at all especially given the women I was up against.

Third I would have to say I have now gotten to a stage where I know who I am. I know myself in terms of a businesswoman. I know what I want for my life and for my business. I want to be a well-known brand in Africa. My focus is on our continent because as Africans we are so quick to take what other continents have on offer yet we have a wealth of talent and resources within Africa. We need to start appreciating ourselves and our product.

How have you dealt with being told “no” in your life for whatever reason?

I have struggled with it. I’m still growing in that department but I think in my struggle I’ve had someone in my life who is very good with directing me in that aspect. He is different from me. I’m a very gentle person to the extent that if someone is very harsh with me – I am very emotionally sensitive. I wear my heart and emotions on my sleeve and my tears are always right there. But in the business realm you can’t afford to be like that. So I’m learning to put on two hats. Taku at home and Taku in business are in some ways different. It has not been easy hearing the “no’s” but to succeed in business you have to accept that you are not going to get all the opportunities that you want.

Is there a favourite personality that has adorned themselves in your jewellery?

I’ve had quite a few. Shingai Shonhiwa from the Noisettes. She rocks and she loves my stuff. When she came for a concert she wore my stuff and that was awesome. Candice Mwakalelye from ZiFM is my brand ambassador and wears my stuff anywhere and everywhere – love her! Prudence Katomeni is another phenomenal woman. She’s so cool. There are a lot of amazing women who have spurred me on and have been a part of my growth.

What do we do to relax outside of jewellery -making?

For me sometimes I actually turn to making jewellery when I’m upset because I then focus on what I’m making and not the cause of my angst. Outside of that – I have two beautiful nieces, one of which is 9 and the other 4. One amazes me with her personality and wit and the other is just crazy – so cute. I love spending time with them because they make me see the beauty of life. A lot of times we focus on things such as money yet we forget to appreciate the privilege of waking up, being alive and able to love and laugh. A lot of what I do is for them and I look forward to being able to spend more time with them.

Any last words for our readers from Taku?

Follow your heart, seek out your purpose and aim to find happiness. Nowadays with the economy and the recession that we have just come out of and others are still trying to come out of the aftermath, there are so many pressures; pressures of which are keeping us from focusing on what’s important to us. It’s not easy but at the end of the day you need to feel fulfilled with whatever it is you are doing so work towards that.