Melania Mandeya – Zimbabwe

Melania Mandeya – Zimbabwe

Date: May 29, 2012
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I started driving at 16. I drove one of my father’s trucks, and it was strange to see a young girl driving such a big truck. This really empowered me; now, I have a class 2 license in Zimbabwe, which allows me to drive trucks about 3 tones. I grew up in a male dominated environment, and was often the only girl among boys. This taught me to be tough.

Gender Links has empowered me as a person, and given me courage in myself that I was doubting. Women have such strong characters that can be inhibited. Gender Links has brought the woman out in me, and it has let me discover my potential without fear. The change has been so substantial that some day I want to write a book about it.

When I was first introduced to Gender Links, I wasn’t sure what to think. On the cover of the Coalface book was Priscilla Maphose, Gender Links country manager in Zimbabwe. She was holding a budget, and trying to teach another woman how to do that budget. My colleagues were skeptical, but when she came to work with the Kariba Town Council, we took an interest in her work. I was given a score card to take back to my council, and I distributed it. It took some effort to encourage people to take the process seriously, but when they saw the value of Gender Link’s meetings, they had a more serious reaction, and the score cards were filled out. Once representatives from my council started going to Gender Links meetings, they became more and more engaged. Gender Links helped my colleagues think practically, and apply what they had learned. I became a gender focal point, and I could see how the behaviors of my colleagues were changing. Seeings these changes has encouraged me to continue as a gender activist.

Gender Links has awakened a stamina in me to train other people. It has taken the ‘soft’ part in me and made it strong. Now, I feel like I can endure difficulties without feeling the pain. I am no longer afraid of what people say, and I have the ability to stand up and speak out. I have gained confidence in my presentation skills, and am a stronger communicator.

As tiny as Colleen is, I believe she brings out the inner woman in every woman, just through her presence. I work in a very tough environment, but when I think of the way Gender Links staff work, I’m motivated to keep pushing. They have really built a dedicated group of people, and I hope they keep pushing for the organization’s sustainability, so that we don’t lose momentum or potential.

I worked in finance and audit for 22 years before I became a councilor, and was exposed to WiPSU. There I realized I haven’t yet reached where I want to go. I hadn’t realized how important capacity building is in all levels of private and public office. I really believe that a person who has capacity will use that to benefit others. Before I became a councilor, many women approached me to try and run for council.

My engagement with Gender Links inspired me to look into a Masters degree in strategic management. My passion is now to build capacity in others. I hope to pursue a degree in Law some day, so I can fully help the people I work with. I believe that when women are faced with challenges, they need someone who will take them by the hand and empower them, the way Gender Links has done in both my private and public life. I want to look at ways of extracting the potential from all women; in every woman, there is will power, and so much can come when that will power is given direction and support.

This year, I came across a scam in my work and unveiled it. It was a challenging situation for me, and having someone who stood by me, particularly through the ordeal of being in the press, was invaluable. This source of support was Priscilla. She is a strong women, who needs to be commended. In spite of the repetitional risk, another woman came out in the press, and told me to stick to my guns; I did, and I am still in council today.



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