I almost didn’t make it because I was tired and sceptical; tired because I had attended enough events where I felt that there was nothing substantive to gain except a free travel opportunity and a bit of pocket money to spend. My cynicism was increasing; but more importantly, my apathy was at an all time high. I was studying International Development and getting to understand that many of the development-oriented projects that we see are about anything but that.
How, I wondered, could this event be any different? How could I regain my faith in the sector?
I am glad to say that all my doubts were immediately erased as soon as I met part of the WYSA delegation. The event largely consisted of young people, all under the age of 30, using new media for change in their respective countries and communities. I was taken aback by the energy of teenagers who presented their work on overcoming environmental challenges in their communities; by groups of young people who had developed online forums and broadcast channels to discuss issues that affected them most, while concurrently trying to develop sustainable solutions to issues.
I must admit that I felt somewhat out of place representing a blog, my own, of somewhat unstructured thought. I didn’t begin my blog with any specific goal to achieve anything; it was simply a space for me to express myself freely. But through the awards ceremony, I realised that it could be bigger, bolder and a platform for more articulation than just my own.
When I landed back in the UK from the awards event, I was immediately on my laptop writing out my first thoughts about how a web portal for Zimbabwean could look. I must have slept a mere two hours that night.
Finding a name
It was a cold UK evening in December when my friend, Tafadzwa Dihwa, and I first took to the task of trying to name Her Zimbabwe. In between chats, Tafadzwa was watching CSI Miami in warm Bulawayo, while I was trying to find the most convenient position I could sit in to get maximum heat from the radiator in my room. The temperature was -3 Degrees Celsius; I couldn’t have felt colder in my body, and yet the heat of our collective creative energy was insatiable.
We riddled off name suggestions like bullets from a warlord’s gun. Our starting point was ‘She-murenga’ – a phrase coined by Zimbabwean feminist, Shereen Essof, years previously. It was a lovely name, we thought, but a name made too complicated by national politics. The name then morphed into ‘She-Mbabwe’, then ‘UmfaZimbabwe’, then ‘MukadZimbabwe’ and a whole lot of other uninspired names. After about two hours chatting, Tafadzwa and I called it a night as our creativity had descended into humorous nothings. Our last suggestion was ‘ZiMukadzi’, which had us both in stitches.
Naming the dream was an important part of forming it. Without the right name, the proposed platform couldn’t have the right feel; I felt anxious about it all. ‘What if the right name doesn’t come to me?’ I kept thinking to myself.
I shouldn’t have worried because it always holds true that when you cease to fret and moan, the body and mind find their own peaceful state and do their thing. And do their thing, they did! As I was making my supper one evening, I stood in my pyjamas and slippers in the kitchen, singing sweet nothings to myself.
The thought flickered through my mind without prompting. “Her Zimbabwe,” I started to think out loud. “Because it’s her version of Zimbabwe, her experience of this nation in the historical, physical, spiritual and futuristic.”
And thus, the dream found its name. After a few consultations, the name was approved. The tagline, ‘Her Voice. Her Revolution.’, had already come to be previously and is based on a simple ethos; it is her voice of power creating her revolution, both within herself and her context.
Her Zimbabwe logo.
I thought through the logo with Babusi Nyoni who is a very talented up and coming graphics designer based in Bulawayo. I first saw his work on his Facebook profile and was instantly interested. I also started to follow his Facebook feed and soon realised that he was someone I could discuss an idea with and have him understand it.
When I told him that I wanted to work with him on a logo design, his response was quick and positive. The next day, he called me in the UK, all the way from Bulawayo. His passionate approach was infectious and I knew he was the person I had been looking for.
Simple instructions on what the logo should look like were shared. I told Babusi that he could take his time with the design; say about two weeks. But he had the first version of the logo ready within three days. He has worked to refine it since then, always willing to listen and improve its quality.
There is great symbolism to this logo and design; the predominance of brown reflects who we are as women - our soils of fertility; and for many of us, the colour of our skin. The 'her' is yellow to reflect that we are gems more radiant than gold and that ‘her’ future is bright and bold. ‘Zimbabwe’ is written out in white, symbolising the tranquil state that we would like our country to finally reach through tolerance and celebration of difference. The colours white and yellow also symbolise the different colours of skin that Zimbabwe’s women possess. And finally, the map of our nation is green to show that Zimbabwe is still fertile and still flourishing in beautiful growth.
The road less travelled is always the scariest to pursue. It entails courage, self belief and a lot of hard work. The day I finally decided to book my return ticket to Zimbabwe from the UK was the first step of courage I took. I decided that the UK didn’t represent the greener pastures that everyone told me it did; at least for me. Zimbabwe was more fertile and rich with possibility. And after having lived almost 3 years away from home, I felt it was time to return to harness some of the skills that I had gained from living in Germany, South Africa, and then the UK.
But the fear was always present; fear of failure and perhaps more importantly, fear of success. This fear manifested in many ways, none more vivid in my mind than the time when I burst into tears while visiting my friend, Angelique Gatsinzi, at her house in London. It was the week before I left to return home and I was feeling anxious. I worried that Her Zimbabwe might not work out and that I was throwing away whatever opportunities the UK held for me, if I cared to explore them.
“One day, you’ll remember this day and laugh,” prophesied Angelique. “I know you will do well my sister.”
This is a refrain I have heard recited over and over again by my many friends and family. And this is what has helped me to conquer my fear and press forward.
Staring out on a zero budget
One of my all-time favourite adverts is one created by Diners’ Club International in which the narrator expresses the following;
“To those who believe there is a time and place where the value of money equals the value of money; to those who never stop, who are always looking, always learning, always arriving, we say… here’s a map.”
This principle is aptly represented by Her Zimbabwe, a project guided by a map in which ZERO exchange of money has taken place… And I mean ZERO!
In exchange for website design and functionality (courtesy of Fungai Tichwangana), I offered my skills in training, content development and editing to his Zimbo Jam project. In exchange for the logo design (courtesy of Babusi), I offered leverage for Babusi’s work and a project which could help enhance his growing portfolio.
And to the content contributors, I offered sisterhood. In fact, we all offered this to one another; through my separate conversations with these women over many years (and some, more recently), I came to the realisation that we had uniquely powerful stories that could help revolutionarise thought and practice in Zimbabwe; and within the communities of Zimbabweans all across our diverse diaspora.
From the onset, it was clear to all the contributors that there would be no financial compensation for their time and efforts. And this was no deterrent. When I sent out emails to friends and likely contributors about the project, the response was overwhelming. Here’s a sample:
Makorokoto!!! Words fail to express how I feel right now. I feel like just basking in your glory. I am so proud of you. Anything I can do, just let me know. I am always here for you.
Oh Fungi. I'm speechless, my dear. Faffy. How I wish she were here. She'd have a crazy column full of these insane stories and ideas. Thank you for this Fungi. You are just amazing. Thank you.
Count me in! It's time we started 'doing' rather than merely 'thinking' and 'saying'. I am all for action in 2012. Lets do this!
Delta Milayo Ndou
Count me in! Anyway I can be of help, let me know.
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Go girl, proud of you - keep doing your thing, God is watching. Mwaaah x
Yes, I am excited about this. My very own platform to do pro bono legal aid. I am definitely in. Just let me know what I need to do to get this going, okay?
Manini Fungi, thanks for the honour my love! Definitely I am interested. Have lots to share, one of which will be ready next week!
Ah Fungai, you are such a sweetie. Of course, I would love to do, write, help with this cool thing you are working on.
Hey dear. Went through the email. I'm game. But nothing that can get us arrested, please!
Hi, oh man, I’m like soooo in; been waiting to get my 'coloured' story out somehow…
I believe 2012 will be the year of great success and satisfaction for us all. With regards to your request, WITH PLEASURE!! I appreciate the opportunity.
I see this is finally going to go off the ground, you have my support and I look forward to working with you on this one.
Gertrude T Bvindi
Sounds like an interesting initiative. Thanks for considering me to be part of it. I am interested to offer whatever support I possibly can; will wait for the finer details.
Nice idea :) I'm game if everyone is.
Bonnie Dudzayi Mureyi
Celebrating our different versions of Zimbabwe
For each and every one of us, there is a version of Zimbabwe and femaleness to be claimed and articulated. And we all have the right to take ownership of our versions; regardless of whether we are passport-holding Zimbabwean citizens or not; whether we do or don’t fit into the contours of the mould of conformity, and whether we are in the physical space of Zimbabwe or otherwise.
Zimbabwe and femininity are different things to different people. And it’s high time we celebrate and honour this.
This is Her Zimbabwe. Her Voice. Her Revolution.