Young engineer plows past obstacles

After becoming one of a few women to graduate with an engineering degree, young advocate of women and youth empowerment, Clarah Munuhwa, has conquered racism and sexism to ensure her peers have ample opportunities to better their futures.

Clarah Munuhwa
Clarah Munuhwa

The 22-year-old, one of only a few biochemical engineers to emerge from the country in recent years, is the founder and executive director of IZWI (Ndebele for voice), a network of Africans involved in businesses, universities, and organisations, all who believe in investing in African youth.

In an interview with The Zimbabwean, Manuhwa recounted how the problems she encountered growing up in economically battered Zimbabwe kept her determined.

“Throughout my journey the biggest gift has been having parents that believed in the power of education,” said Manuhwa. “During the Zimbabwean crisis, there would be days we would spend pondering where the next plate of food would come from yet, what was certain was that each child in my family must go to school.

I try to do as much as I can, and I owe this to inspirational young people I meet. The challenges I have faced fuel my energy to find people willing to collaborate to solve issues that affect us all,” she told The Zimbabwean.

Manuhwa believes IZWI is a platform that can give young people leverage and a space to not just encourage and inspire each other, but to find it in their own voices to speak for the future they seek. Her experiences put her in a unique position with a unique perspective in approaching big issues.

“I am a young STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professional woman of colour who loves to write during free time and is passionate about the development of Africa and its people,” she said.

“I believe so strongly in not just a united Africa, but a developed continent where its people, myself included, are not afraid to say its name wherever we are.”

Besides her involvement with IZWI, the Harare-born professional supports other women working towards similar STEM occupations.

She is part of the Digital Life Design (DLD) women community. DLD is a global network on innovation, digitization, science, and culture connecting business, creative, and social leaders.

Manuhwa has also led project prototyping for energy and environmental systems with young professional engineer leaders in the World Federation of Engineering Organisations in Geneva, Switzerland.

The courageous Manuhwa conceded to the challenges that came with such tasks, but the determination to make a positive impact on others has kept her going. “I have experienced the tough working spaces which are dominated by men, but did that mean to toughen up and become manly? No way! I have been discriminated against at one point because of my gender or ethnicity.” she said, “I could have played the victim card, but that does not help. [Instead we must start] empowering and encouraging each other as people of color who must learn to build up our communities.”

Manuhwa believes obstacles can be fought through strength, collaboration and, most of all, passion.

“Sometimes people do not believe in the things you are so passionate about, yet when you love something so much you do it so well that people start to see some good in it and you drive positive change.

The biggest breakthrough anyone can ever have is the knowledge of self and those around you,” she said.

“The challenges I have faced fuel my energy…to solve issues that affect us all.”

Post published in: News

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