Ms. Ekenia Chifamba, a 2019 alumna of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), is a girls rights activist and the Founding Director of Shamwari Yemwanasikana. Shamwari Yemwanasikana (which is Shona for “Exclusive Friend of the Girl Child”) is a community based, non-governmental organization in Zimbabwe that seeks to promote the rights and empowerment of the girl child in the home, school and community. This blog post is part of a series highlighting and celebrating women leaders in our network during Women’s History Month.
Who is or has been a female inspiration, mentor or hero figure to you?
I found a role model in Betty Makoni, the Founder of Girl Child Network, with whom I worked for more than five years. She taught me that we can challenge the status quo if we believe in our inner strength, and that women can be the change that we want to see in the world using lived experiences. She made me realize the potential that I had deep inside me and, indeed, I have managed to touch the lives of many girls as well as women using my own personal experiences.
What does ‘leadership’ mean to you?
Leadership means taking responsibility, having the power of delegation, and setting the tone for the team that I lead. It often takes a great deal of courage, the desire to learn something new daily, selflessness, being a team player, and sacrifice to ensure that set goals are attained.
How do you give back, or build connections or roadmaps for future women leaders?
I am a woman who wants to see all other women fully empowered and attaining their goals in life. As such, I always give my time to have constructive conversations with the girls whom I serve at my organization, the women who support my work in communities, as well as fellow female leaders from various walks of life. As such, from my IVLP experience in 2019, I have started an initiative named Ladder to Leadership whereby I facilitate mentorship opportunities as well as networking platforms for current and future female leaders. This program has resulted in girls taking up leadership positions in platforms such as Student Representative Councils which are often dominated by males. The IVLP experience gave me the impetus to churn out the next generation of female leaders. I will be launching the first-ever girls coalition in Zimbabwe during this Women’s History Month as a way of creating a platform for active participation of young women in economic, political and social issues. In all this discourse, I also rally men, especially those who are gatekeepers or who are influential, as they are role models for their fellow men who also believe in female empowerment. I ask of them to collectively realize that investing in women is smart economics, and investing in girls is even smarter economics, as rightfully said by Okonje-Iweala.
What accomplishments would you highlight since your IVLP experience?
The IVLP program opened a number of opportunities for me after the fellowship, namely appointments, awards and accomplishments all of which I received and achieved between June 2019 and July 2020. I have been appointed to the Civil Society Reference Group for Spotlight Initiative Zimbabwe and as National Association of NGOs (NANGO) Secretary. I was also invited to sit on Tugwi Trust Zimbabwe Board and serve as a member of 10, an African Leadership Coalition. Awards that I received include Ten Outstanding Young People Zimbabwe and Scooped 3 PROWEB Women Achievers Awards, and I was featured in a documentary of 100 Great Zimbabweans. I was also named second out of 10 by Health Times Zimbabwe for championing sexual and reproductive health rights. Lastly, I launched the first–ever Girls Rights Movement in Zimbabwe, designed to give girls voice, space and resources to fight for their socio–economic and political rights moving towards Agenda 2030 with a vision to transcend borders.
What major takeaway from your IVLP experience has most impacted your work or your organization?
My visit to the Center for Creative Leadership made me realize, understand and appreciate the art of leadership and its importance, particularly self-leadership, team leadership and community leadership. My experience with SpringBoard Utah encouraged me that if women are well supported they can effectively serve in governments and on boards. I made up my mind that I will run for office as a Member of Parliament in Zimbabwe in 2023.
To learn more about Ms. Ekenia Chifamba click here.