Welsh charity empowers Filabusi women

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, where at an estimated figure of some four million they are one of the highest refugee nations in the world, are mostly known to be doing menial jobs and living vulnerable lives especially if one is a woman.

Many women, especially in neighbouring South Africa, have been forced to try and make it in life by selling the most precious thing they have their bodies.

It is therefore very refreshing when, from such a cursed nationality and vulnerable sex, emerges someone with the willpower to develop not only her fellow nationals, but people in her host country as well.

Enter Bekezela Nsingo, a 38-year-old Zimbabwean now based in Wales. Nsingo, a social entrepreneur originally from the remote Insiza district in Filabusi, Matabeleland South, is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of African Mothers Foundation International (AMFI) – an international development organisation headquartered in Wales that helps women rebuild their battered lives through various developmental projects.

Nsingo, a Wales UnLtd Award winner, who was also an ambassador for Miss Zimbabwe Diamond UK, has so far helped 22 formerly vulnerable women find their feet in her home district, through working with community-based organisations, NGOs, government agencies and civil societies both in Zimbabwe and the UK.

Smoke-filled kitchen

Coming from one of the most backward communities in Zimbabwe, where a womans place is still in the smoke-filled kitchen, Nsingo says she finds her drive by helping women and girls rise up to lifes challenges and increase their expectations. Since the formation of her organisation in 2003, she has occupied herself with challenging cultural practices and norms that relegate women to poverty and nothingness.

But what drove Nsingo to delve into this field?

It all started in 2008 when I visited Filabusi, where I had lived before leaving for the UK in 2003, she told The Zimbabwean in a recent interview.

This is the Africa people do not hear about too often. But the reality of the matter is that this is the true Africa where a womans office is the kitchen. I was most emotionally and physically affected by the plight of women and young girls there, especially widows and children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

Helplessness

What I saw is hard to describe. That place was far removed from the Zimbabwe I grew up in and filled me with emptiness and helplessness. There were about 20 widows in the community who told me about the difficulties they faced. Their main concern was that their children had dropped out of school because they could not afford fees.

I felt pain as, a one-time widow myself, I had experienced what most of those people were going through, everything being taken away from you by your husbands family, she added.

I also counted more than 100 orphaned children within the community who had dropped out or missed out on their first school years because their parents could not afford to pay for them. It made me realise that if someone had to help these people that had to be me. So when I returned to the UK I immediately started this organisation and a lot of women joined in. I am glad that today, what started in my living room has grown to be a well-recognised charity in Wales, with its own offices and a trailer of volunteers.

Besides paying school fees, AMFI also educates and empowers African women in order for them to participate both locally and internationally in making decisions that affect their lives, which they are later able to change for the better. The organisation has also donated books and equipment to under-funded schools in the remote district.

Formerly vulnerable

Our projects in Zimbabwe have also directly involved women as community volunteers in projects that help uplift the same communities and I am glad that the formerly vulnerable are now drivers in community development. We also develop womens knowledge, skills and their status.

Nsingo has also held several creative workshops for schools and community groups throughout Wales as her organisations mission is to build sustainable, healthy and productive lives for the people of both Wales and Zimbabwe, especially women.

I believe that by providing women with adequate training, education and the necessary resources, we can enable them to fully get involved in income-generating activities. If you educate a woman you educate the whole nation.

Determination

Born to a poor family, Nsingo did most of her primary education in Insiza and attended Mpopoma High School, in Bulawayo, up to Form 2, before she was transferred to Mwele Secondary School in Insiza, because her father could not afford the fees.

With the determination to make it in life, I worked hard on my studies and passed six O Level subjects, but there was no money for me to further my education. I worked for World Vision and some international agencies in Zimbabwe before coming to UK in 2003. I always wanted to lead by example.

AMFIs good work has also not gone unnoticed, as it was recently shortlisted for the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards (Z.A.A) in the Community Champion of the year Category. The Z.A.A is a distinctly special awards ceremony seeking to recognise Zimbabweans throughout the UK who have pushed the limits against all odds to raise the Zimbabwean flag high and do both themselves and their countrymen proud and Nsingo sees this as a great honour for her organisation.

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