Featured Storyteller

ZIMBABWE: The Enormous Power of Representation

Theresa Takafuma
Posted November 21, 2018 from Zimbabwe
Photo ©STARS/Kristian Buus

Theresa Takafuma shares how one woman’s story inspired her to pursue her dreams—and become a role model for others.

“Listening to her testimony, I began to imagine myself in a far better place: in college, neatly dressed, with long hair and holding my own.

A Zimbabwean motivational speaker, Nyaradzo Shato once said people think in pictures, and I believe her: this is why.

At some point in my life, I had to walk over 20 kilometers every day to and from school. Actually, I did this for four years—from when I was 14 until I finished high school.

My mother is a primary school teacher. I have five siblings, and I am the second born child. This translated to me bearing the brunt of scarce resources since my mother single-handedly had to do all she could to raise us.

Every week day of those four years, I crossed two streams across plains and forests to get to school—sometimes on an empty stomach—because apart from the general scarcity of resources at home, my stepdad was not exactly a kind man.

I started my schooling at a mission school, so life was bliss until my biological father’s only brother passed on. You see, I had lost my biological father when I was 3 years old. After my uncle passed, this meant that nobody could afford my boarding school fees. I had to transfer to a rural school.

The first few days were hell—I did not fit in at all. First, I did not have a complete school uniform. Second, things were completely different from what I was used to.

On most school days things were bad, and I told my mother on several occasions that I wanted to quit school and look for work as a domestic helper. I felt I was going nowhere with all my ambitions.

One day, a woman from the community told me point blank that most of the girls who came from that area could not go past form three before getting pregnant or eloping.

My monthly periods were the worst. I would walk all that distance with throbbing pain from cramps, and more often than not, the sanitary wear I could afford (mostly pieces of cloth) left my inner thighs bruised. I didn’t have more than four decent changes of clothes, most of which were hand-me-downs from my maternal aunts, and I had to share everything, down to my underwear, with my elder sister.

Our alcoholic stepdad often took our school backpacks and either sold or exchanged them for something he could use. Most of the time we ended up using plastic bags to carry our school books.

Every day I would imagine my next five years. I had a great fear of failure, and I was worried I would not achieve a single dream of mine. The circumstances were just so gloomy for me to keep my dreams alive. Yet, all the same, I kept dreaming.

I started being very active at the Scripture Union (SU) Club in a bid to resuscitate my wounded hope, and that is when the thing that reignited my dreams transpired.

One day, a group of student teachers came to our SU club to fellowship and share their stories with us. Among them was this tiny lady, very neatly dressed, with long hair. She smelled divine.

She narrated how she had grown up in strikingly similar circumstances to my own, and I needed no one to tell me that life for her was better now.

Listening to her testimony, wide-eyed, I began to imagine myself in a far better place: in college, neatly dressed, with long hair and holding my own. In my vision, I had younger girls looking up to me.

Fast forward many years later, and I became like the young woman who inspired me as a girl. I was pursuing my tertiary education, and soon after I got a job in my dream working place: the newsroom.

Recently, I came across a video of Dr. Tererai Trent, a Zimbabwean woman who hid her dreams in a tin, under a rock. She was inspired by another woman, an aid worker, who came to her village when she was in really difficult circumstances. This woman asked her about her dreams and inspired her to pursue them.

Earlier this year, I heard renowned Zimbabwean-born actress Danai Gurira give a speech at an Essence event. She narrated how, when she was still a kid, a Black American visitor to her school in Zimbabwe held her tiny face and told her she was beautiful, which gave her the confidence to become the force she is today in Hollywood.

When I look at all these stories, I feel the power of representation. I feel how much our girls and young women need these stories. It has made me realize that indeed we think in pictures and images of inspiration are vitally necessary.

Had it not been for that student teacher (whose name, no matter how hard I try to remember it, I have forgotten), I probably would have given up on my dreams. I remember how nicely she was dressed, and how pleasant she smelled. And how much her difficult upbringing was like mine.

A few weeks ago, I stood at a Southern Africa regional platform, to speak about an organization I co-founded called Girls Speak Out. I shared how passionate I am about empowering the girl child through access to information and technology training, and guess whose words brought me to tears? My very own 11-year-old cousin!

She told me how proud she was that her big sister—me, her older cousin—appeared on a big screen, fearless and eloquent. Little did she know that I was nervous and anxious before and during the presentation. And yet, there she was, drooling with pride and wanting to be like me!

Sharing all these moments brings me back to the dusty rural paths I trekked every day as a child. It brings me back to walking those roads after meeting that student teacher. As I wandered towards school, I would imagine myself in a better, safer, and happier place—thanks to the power of representation!


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Comments 25

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Maya Iwata
Nov 26
Nov 26

Thank you for sharing your story about how hearing another woman's story inspired you and you took action and now are really influencing story in a newsroom! Congratulations on all you have accomplished and how you are inspiring others. Representation is so important is so many ways. Representation lets us new things are possible and our big dreams are possible. Thank you for being an inspiration and for being inspired.

Theresa Takafuma
Nov 27
Nov 27

Dear Maya

Thank you very much for your kind words. I hope my story inspires others.
Kindest regards
Theresa

Corine Milano
Nov 26
Nov 26

Theresa, I love this story so much because it really illustrates how powerful it is to tell our stories and use our experiences to inspire others. I know that hearing from other women who have made it through tough experiences has been instrumental in my own life for helping me get to where I am today. I am guessing that many who call World Pulse their online home will say the same! Thank you for speaking out and sharing you were inspired and moved on to inspire others. I bet your little cousin will one day inspire a new generation as well!

Theresa Takafuma
Nov 27
Nov 27

Dear Corine

Thank you for your kind words. It feels good to know that my story is worth telling. Our stories have the hope our little sisters are looking for. I hope my story inspires others.

Warmest regards

Theresa

Tinomutenda Midzi
Nov 27
Nov 27

Toching piece

ARREY - ECHI
Nov 27
Nov 27

Dear Theresa,
Congratulations for being a Featured Story Teller.
I enjoyed reading through and I agree wholly that there's power in representation. Sometimes, just that one assuring word is what we need to push forward.
Glad you had that so you can now pursue your dreams and inspire others.
Keep it going.

Theresa Takafuma
Nov 27
Nov 27

Thank you Arrey. I am so happy I got the opportunity to share my story on this platform. Thank you and lots of love.

Irene Kalulu
Nov 27
Nov 27

Love your story Theresa,good going for telling it like it is.
You have inspired me to share mine as well!

Theresa Takafuma
Nov 27
Nov 27

Thanks Irene. Took me time but here we are. Please do share yours and lets inspire others.
Love,
T.

Marie Abanga
Nov 27
Nov 27

Congratulations Theresa on being a featured storyteller. I loved this so much and that's what I aspire to be indeed.

Forever in sisterhood
Marie

Theresa Takafuma
Nov 27
Nov 27

Thank you dear sister. Your story inspires me. Despite our "fractured girlhood", we now look back and wonder how we got over.
Lots of love

Lily Habesha
Nov 28
Nov 28

Theresa,
What a wonderful story !!!!
I am so glad you made it and you made your little cousin to be proud of you. You are very strong woman to believe in yourself and to reach your goals.
I wish you more success in your life. Keep encouraging little girls.

In sisterhood,
lily

Theresa Takafuma
Nov 29
Nov 29

Dear Lily
Thank you so much for your kind words. My little cousin has already read this piece and she absolutely loves it! She is my biggest fan and I love her so much. I hope I continue to inspire her and many other girls.
Thank you for your kind words
In sisterhood
Theresa

jlanghus
Nov 28
Nov 28

Hi Theresa,

Congrats on winning the story award for your great story!

Theresa Takafuma
Nov 29
Nov 29

Hi Jill
Thank you so much for encouraging me to enter the story awards. And thank you for your kind words.

jlanghus
Nov 29
Nov 29

Hi Theresa,

You're very welcome:-) You deserve it! Hope you have a great day!

Adanna
Nov 28
Nov 28

Dear Theresa,

Thank you for sharing your story. Reading your story reminded me of why I have always believed (and still believe) that young girls need to have access to women that they can relate to (in terms of what they want to be in the future); be it mentoring or attending events where they can listen to these women speak about their experiences.

Well done!

Love,
Adanna

Theresa Takafuma
Nov 29
Nov 29

Dear Adanna
Thank you for your kind words. Indeed, girls and young women need to have access to older women who can inspire them. I always make sure to encourage younger women and girls wherever I am, be it family or girls from my community. Mentorship is a very important part of a person's life.
Thank you for reading my story.
Love,
Theresa

Ngwa Damaris
Nov 28
Nov 28

No one truly understands a woman better than another woman. We are each Others inspiration :)

Theresa Takafuma
Nov 29
Nov 29

Very true sis. We are not only our sisters' keepers. We are our sisters.

Mauwa Brigitte
Nov 29
Nov 29

Hi THERESA TAKAFUMA!
Your story is inspiring for a person who knows how to open his heart to another experienced person with a sense of being with a lot of sharing love in order to help others to be like us whose influence the Bible tells us must be the head and not the tail.

fidelity
Dec 04
Dec 04

you are a great woman congratulations

Theresa Takafuma
Dec 05
Dec 05

Thank you for your kind words

NooriaA
Dec 08
Dec 08

Dear Theresa, wonderful story for inspiration. By reading your story, I felt that I watch a movie with ups and downs. Wish you more success in your life.

Theresa Takafuma
Dec 10
Dec 10

Thank you. It was tough back then, but through it all I learnt that keeping one's dreams alive is the secret to success.