Student profile: Meet Tiny J.!

Meet one of our beneficiaries: Tiny J.  She lives with her mother, grandmother, three other siblings, and six cousins. Together, the 12 of them share three small rooms in Harare’s densely populated suburb of Glen Norah. With an absent father, it was up to Tiny’s unemployed mother to single-handedly raise Tiny and her three other siblings, among a huge extended family. In 2010, when she was in grade 5 at Chembira Primary School, Tiny almost dropped out of school due to not being able to pay her school fees. Like many orphaned and vulnerable girls, she was plagued by continued absenteeism from school and this was severely affecting her grades.

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Fortunately, Tiny heard of Tariro through our dance instructor, Daniel. After going through our vetting process and with recommendations from her Headmaster, Tiny was enrolled into Tariro and before long, her grades gradually began to improve. Now doing Form 2 at Glen Norah 2 High School, Tiny is happy that Tariro has taken her this far. She is doing well in school and her confidence has returned. Today, Tiny is a prefect at her school.

When she spoke to us, she revealed that she strongly wants to become a nurse so that she can offer immediate help to those who are ill. She says she was inspired by her friend’s aunt. Tiny is so passionate about becoming a nurse that she disclosed to us that she is studying her mathematics and science extra-hard so she will be eligible to enroll for the profession.

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On a parting note, Tiny revealed her dream to give back to Tariro through donating money for school fees as well as stationery once she is working. She also had a word of advice for her fellow Tariro colleagues, “Girls, we should work hard in school so as not to let our donors down”. We would like to thank all the supporters for helping us get this far! As we move toward a new school year in Zimbabwe, your donations mean the world to Tiny and her peers.

This blog post was written by Sagar Patel, a Tariro student intern through the University of Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender & Women’s Studies.

Guest post: Chiedza Mufunde, Tariro board member

Tariro's fabulous board member Chiedza Mufunde, pictured with Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright at Hilary Clinton's inaugural Women in Public Service Project colloquium

Tariro’s fabulous board member Chiedza Mufunde, pictured with Gloria Steinem and Congresswoman Nita Lowey at Hilary Clinton’s inaugural Women in Public Service Project colloquium

Giving Hope: Tariro Girls Excel!

Every year on World AIDS Day, I mourn the loss from AIDS. I reflect on the impact of this loss on children, families, communities and economies around the world. Despite the pain of these losses, I also take the moment to appreciate the progress we have made in fighting HIV/AIDS, and recognize the work that lies ahead. However, despite the progress we have made, girls without a primary education are still at higher risk for getting infected. Each year 60% of new HIV infections occur among adolescent girls – gender inequality contributes to these high numbers among girls.

The evidence is clear: investing in education for girls is an effective tool to fight HIV. Girls with primary education are significantly less likely to contract HIV – when girls stay in school through secondary education, the protective effect against HIV is significant. When girls are educated, they are able to avoid risky behavior, practice and negotiate safer sex. Increasing access and breaking barriers to education for girls is essential to achieve an AIDS- free generation.

For the last decade, Tariro has been fighting HIV through supporting education for girls orphaned by AIDS in Zimbabwe. Through financial and psycho-social support, Tariro girls are able to continue with their education and dream beyond their circumstances. Over the years, girls supported by Tariro have excelled in their studies and continue to hold onto the hope for a brighter future.

In Zimbabwe, education has led to significant decline in rate of HIV infection – in 2010, 75% of 15-24 year old Zimbabwean women had completed secondary education and this led to the significant decline of HIV rates from 29% to 14%. The benefits for educating girls benefit the girls and society overall, yet we continue to see a decline in government expenditure on education. Programs focusing on adolescent girls, especially in sub-Saharan Africa play an important role to ensure girls reach their full potential.

I support the work of Tariro in opening doors and allowing girls to. Your support for Tariro carries our work forward to ensure these girls find hope and lead full and healthy lives. Your gift today gives hope and adds to the call to action for improving education for girls around the world.

Chiedza Mufunde is passionate about education and reproductive rights. She currently works on research, policy and advocacy with A World At School campaign focused on universal primary education. She is also Secretary of Tariro Board of Directors.

Join us on Giving Tuesday!

TariroLogo_s_666_100Dear Friends –

It’s hard to believe we’ve now passed our tenth anniversary. Whether you have been supporting us for many years or are a new supporter, THANK YOU. Your donations have made a life-changing difference in the lives of Tariro’s students. Your help is more critical now than ever, since recent news from Zimbabwe suggests that increasing numbers of vulnerable students have been unable to pay their school fees.

As many of you know, the past year saw many positive transitions at Tariro, most notably the hiring of our new Executive Director, Kenny Magwada. I am writing from my new position as Fundraising Chair, encouraging you to join us this Giving Tuesday by making a donation to Tariro through our special Giving Tuesday webpage.

I have always found individual stories to be the most powerful way of communicating why Tariro’s work is so important. These are the stories of girls like Jane J., who is now one of several students attending university with Tariro’s support. Without your assistance over the past four years, however, it is unlikely that Jane would have finished even a basic high school education.

JANE JONGWEJane’s story

When I first met Jane in 2009, she had many extended periods of absence at school as a result of her inability to pay her school fees. Despite her desperate circumstances, however, Jane showed great academic potential, maintaining an overall average grade of an A-.

With Tariro’s support, Jane passed both her Ordinary and Advanced Level exams. We are proud to announce that she is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management at Midlands State University with continued sponsorship from Tariro.

Describing Tariro’s powerful impact in her life, Jane says, “When I lost my parents, I thought that life was going to end. But I thank God that he provided me with you guys. Thank you for paying my fees.”

Help us educate other girls like Jane!

As the new school year begins in Zimbabwe, I encourage you to contribute to Tariro’s work with students like Jane. While we need to raise a large sum– about $30,000 – even a small gift has a major impact:

  • $30 will provide a student with school supplies (pens, paper, and sanitary ware) for the year.
  • $80 will provide a student with a new uniform, including shoes, socks, pants/skirt, shirt and tie.
  • $100 will cover the annual cost for a student to participate in Tariro’s music and dance ensemble.
  • $150 will enable a student to write her Ordinary Level exams.

You can donate to Tariro online, or mail your donations directly to PO Box 50273, Eugene, OR, 97405. Thank you once again for your support!

Sincerely,
Jennifer Kyker, Founder

Remembering Senzeni within a wider Zimbabwean context

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This photo shows Tariro’s librarian Senzeni Matikiti in 1995.

Today, I want to take a few more minutes to address the recent death of Senzeni Matikiti, Tariro’s beloved librarian. While my first post about Senzeni’s passingwas a more personal reflection on how she became involved in Tariro’s work, I also feel it is important to reflect on how Senzeni’s very early death, at only 35 years old, is part of a much large constellation of issues of health, education, poverty, and social justice – the very issues that Tariro is dedicating to addressing in our work to educate at-risk girls.

Life expectancies in Zimbabwe

When I heard the news that Senzeni had died, I was immediately reminded that her early death was sadly not an unusual event in Zimbabwe, where life expectancy dropped precipitously in the late 1990s and early 2000s. By 2006, Zimbabwe had the world’s shortest life spans – 34 years for women, and 37 years for men. Recent reports from organizations such as the World Bank suggest that life expectancies have improved in recent years, reaching 60 years for women and 56 years for men. Yet, these numbers are still lower than Zimbabwe’s average life expectancy in the 1980s, suggesting that HIV/AIDS has erased many of the health gains made immediately after independence.

The thinning population pyramid

In the lyrics to his song “Mabasa,” which addresses the ravages of HIV/AIDS, Zimbabwean popular artist Oliver Mtukudzi sings the poignant lines:

The young lead the way (Pwere dzotungamira)
The workers lead the way (Mushandi wotungamira)
Only elderly men and women are left (Sare chembere neharahwa)

Mtukudzi’s lyrics reflect exactly how HIV/AIDS and related diseases have affected the “population pyramid” in countries like Zimbabwe, by hollowing out an entire generation of people in the most productive years of their lives: teachers, farmers, mothers, fathers, nurses, and traders. Let’s take a moment to view some graphics illustrating the devastating social effects of this process.

Normally, developing countries like Zimbabwe have a population pyramid that tapers evenly, from a large base of dependent young people, through a mid-sized group of workers in their productive years, and to a small number of dependent elderly people. The following chart, while illustrates the population pyramid of Mozambique, is an excellent example:

Population pyramid, Mozambique. From the BBC.

Population pyramid, Mozambique. From the BBC.

In Zimbabwe, on the other hand, the population pyramid radically thins out just at the ages of 35-39, as we might expect after the drop in life expectancy over previous decades. While Zimbabwe is located right next to Mozambique, its population pyramid thus looks very different:

Population pyramid, Zimbabwe. From Indexmundi.

Population pyramid, Zimbabwe. From Indexmundi.

The shape of Zimbabwe’s population pyramid reflects the predictions made by scholars interested in demographic changes in countries affected by HIV/AIDS, as you can see in the following illustration, which predicts the relative population of low-income countries affected by HIV/AIDS, represented by the dark shaded area, in comparison with those unaffected by HIV/AIDS, represented by the light shaded area. Note how closely the prediction for countries affected by HIV/AIDS matches Zimbabwe’s actual population pyramid.

Population pyramid model illustrated the effects of HIV/AIDS. www.sarpn.org

Population pyramid model illustrated the effects of HIV/AIDS. http://www.sarpn.org

As people in the prime of their lives are lost to diseases such as HIV/AIDS, the effects are felt not only on an individual, family basis, but throughout society as a whole. Their loss is, in a very real sense, everyone’s loss. When I think back to the invaluable role Senzeni played within Tariro, I think of all the people whom she interacted with in her professional life: our students, their guardians, their teachers and headmasters, our other staff. For each of these people, Senzeni’s death is a narrowing of their professional and social world.

Orphans

Yet, needless to say, the deepest pain of Senzeni’s death is that felt by her two children, Jesse and Tinashe, both of whom are still under the age of 18. Senzeni was an amazing mother: no matter how hard things were, Jesse and Tinashe were always dressed in cleaned, well-ironed clothes, and always had a smile on their faces. It was obviously how much they respected and loved their mom, and no one will ever be able to fill that gap in their lives.

Jesse and Tinashe now join the ranks of almost a million orphans living in Zimbabwe, all of whom have lost either one or both parents. Among these orphans, Jesse and Tinashe are among the most disadvantaged, because they are now “double orphans,” rather than “single orphans” who have lost only one parent.

In a country of only 10-12 million inhabitants, the problems of caring for nearly a million orphaned children should be clearly evident. Who will take them in, feed the, and pay their school fees? Who will be able to spare the extra time to wash and iron their clothes, pack their lunches, and protect them from abuse? And who can muster the extra emotional energy to guide them through the trauma and grief of losing not one, but often multiple family members?

The many pressing needs of Zimbabwe’s orphaned children is precisely the site where Tariro has chosen to intervene in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Instead of institutionalizing orphans, our approach is to strengthen the ability of their extended families to keep them at home and care for them. Your support and generous donations have been essential in enabling us to make this difference.

Tariro’s Executive Director Kenny Magwada recently reported that Senzeni’s children have been taken in by an uncle who lives in Highfield, not far away from where they used to live. This is excellent news, since it will minimize further disruptions to their education. Yet, the road will be very long and difficult for both of them. Tinashe, in particular, was supposed to write his O Level exams this year. So soon after his mother’s death, however, it is likely that he will not pass. And there are no guarantees that they will be able to continue living in the same neighborhood, or with the same relatives, until finishing secondary school. As long as they are still in Highfield, however, Tariro is dedicated to supporting their education in Senzeni’s memory.

Infections and inequalities

Borrowing a phrase from the amazing work of Dr. Paul Farmer, the last point I believe it is important to make is that Senzeni’s death from tuberculosis reflects the way many modern infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and now also ebola, have become diseases of the poor. Relatively rare in developed nations, they have become entrenched in places like Haiti and Guinea, and are also endemic within pockets of institutionalized poverty, including many prison systems.

Yet, as Paul Farmer has long argued, these conditions are not simply private problems; they are public health problems, with important ramifications for all of us. From Russian prisons, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, or MDR-TB, threatens to spill over into the larger Eastern Eauropean population. From Sierra Leonean districts like Kenema, Ebola eventually reaches Dakar, Madrid, New York City, Dallas, and Kayes. Among these infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS has taken the greatest human toll; it is also implicated in the spread of other opportunistic infections, like TB.

In order to successfully change this dynamic, Farmer argues that we must move away from explanations that rely on dubious assertions about “culture” – the idea that people in Guinea engage in dangerous burial practices, for example – and toward addressing the structural problems that create the conditions for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB, and Ebola to spread. Foremost among them is, quite simply, poverty.

Once again, it is here that Tariro is participating in creating small, but radical change, since educating women is the single best way to transform poverty. Our mission is one of empowering girls not simply to transcend the problem of infections and inequalities, but to participate in changing the very conditions by which the two become linked. Please join us.

In memory of Senzeni Matikiti

Tariro program officer Senzeni Matikiti (center), pictured together with other Tariro staff members Fadzie (left) and Daniel (right). Photo: Tessa Munson Wood

Tariro program officer Senzeni Matikiti (center), pictured together with other Tariro staff members Fadzie (left) and Daniel (right). Photo: Tessa Munson Wood

It is with very deep sadness that I write this post informing you of the recent death of Tariro’s librarian and program officer, Senzeni Matikiti. In addition to working with Tariro, Senzeni was a close personal friend, whom I have known since my first trip to Zimbabwe, in 1995. My feelings after losing Senzeni are too big to fit in a single post. Today, I want to give you a glimpse into Senzeni’s life and work. I will follow this with another post early next week honoring Senzeni’s experience, and reflecting on how her life speaks to a much larger, Zimbabwean story.

1995: Meeting Senzeni

Originally from Mukodzongi village in Chiweshe, Senzeni came to Harare as a teenager, where she lived with one of her female relatives, whose name was Kesi Chauruka. In a typical trade for adolescent girls, Senzeni helped the Chauruka family with various household tasks, cooking and leaning in exchange for her food and lodging. When I first met Senzeni in 1995, we were both fifteen years old.

Obviously, there were major differences between us. While Senzeni was no longer attending school, I attended a prestigious public IB program in Eugene, Oregon. While Senzeni had little access to any kind of financial resources, I had the ability to travel halfway around the world in order to study Zimbabwean music. Nevertheless, we developed the kind of friendship that often results from extended, daily interactions. Frequently, we walked to Machipisa market together to do the daily shopping for the Chauruka family. We also sat for long hours around the family’s cooking fire in the evenings, stumbling to converse in each other’s languages. By the left I left, we had developed a close friendship, which would last for nearly twenty years.

1997: Returning to Zimbabwe

When I returned to Zimbabwe in 1997, Senzeni was no longer living with the Chauruka family. Near the end of my stay in 1995, one of the residents of the Chauruka household, a woman named Mai Ndasara, had passed away of an undefined illness. Shortly after this, her widowed husband, Baba Ndasara, took Senzeni as his new wife, and moved out of the Chauruka compound.

Now, Senzeni had a son, whom she named Tinashe, or “God is with us.” While we no longer saw each other every day, she hadn’t moved far, and we still frequently encountered each other walking through the streets of our neighborhood, a high-density township called Highfield.

2008: Senzeni falls ill

After several short trips to Zimbabwe over the years, I finally returned for another year-long stay in 2008, in order to begin fieldwork for my PhD dissertation in ethnomusicology. Returning to Highfield to visit old friends, I quickly learned that Senzeni’s husband had died since my last visit, and she herself was now seriously ill.

Greeting my old friend, I was struck by the desperation apparent on her face. Long stricken with asthma, Senzeni now seemed to have a serious respiratory infection, and was struggling to breathe. She also had a skin condition affecting much of her scalp, and was thin to the point of appearing emaciated. With no steady income, she had resorted to buying popsicles, known locally as “freezits,” in bulk, which she then resold our of her home freezer to neighborhood children walking home from school. Obviously, this creative economic activity didn’t produce enough income for Senzeni’s family, especially as she now had a young daughter, named Jesse, in addition to her son Tinashe.

2009: New hope

Much to the consternation of Tariro’s old program coordinator, Fadzie, I tend to act immediately whenever I feel I might be able to make a difference. Indeed, I quickly sprang into action after visiting Senzeni, arranging for her to see a doctor in the nearby neighborhood of Glen Norah, and paying for her to fill prescriptions to treat each of her various conditions. Going even further out on a limb, I offered Senzeni a part-time job as a librarian at Tariro.

Of course, this wasn’t in our budget, so I paid her salary out of my own pocket, never telling her that her position was anything less than completely official. While she received only $100 a month for her work, this was an incredible sum in comparison to what she had previously been trying to survive on. Relieving her of some of the burden of paying school fees, I also enrolled her daughter, Jesse, in Tariro’s sponsorship program.

2012: Our invaluable librarian

Senzeni threw herself into her work with Tariro with unparalleled enthusiasm. In addition to staffing our lending library, she gradually began to take on a much wider role within the organization. In monthly updates from our program coordinator Fadzie, for example, I started encountering phrases like these:

“Senzeni has been amazing with following up, and making sure our receipts meet the standard we have set for ourselves.”

“Senzeni is currently paying all the fees I couldn’t pay.”

“Senzeni and I have completed most of the home/school visits.”

“Senzeni and I compiled a report which we have submitted to Mercy Corps showing how the funds were expensed as well as the signatures of all the students who benefited from the grant.”

“I do have another copy of the students register, compiled by Senzeni.”

By 2012, Senzeni had already been made an official staff member at Tariro. Yet it was becoming clear that she was much more than simply a librarian. In response, Tariro’s board president, Easther Chigumira, suggested that we raise her salary. In recognition of her invaluable assistance to Tariro, board members voted unanimously to double her salary to $200 per month, giving her a very decent income by Zimbabwean standards.

2014: Mourning Senzeni

While Senzeni’s health had improved somewhat, she was still frequently too ill to come to work over the years. In September, I heard from Tariro’s new Executive Director, Kenny Magwada, that Senzeni was now seriously ill, and seeking treatment at Harare Hospital, a government institution. Soon, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and transferred to the Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital. I told Kenny to contact me if there was anything I could do, and asked for Senzeni’s telephone number to call her.

A short time later, I received word that Senzeni had been discharged, and was now at home. Visiting me in Rochester was Cosmas Magaya, a wonderful Zimbabwean mbira player, and one of our Zimbabwean trustees. Together, we called Senzeni to see how she was doing. Both of us were shocked at how ill she sounded. In another sign that her illness was very serious, her mother had traveled from the rural areas to care for her.

Once again, I sprang into action, asking friends in Zimbabwean for referrals to a private specialist, and contacting other friends whom I thought might be able to help arrange transportation for Senzeni, as well as covering the initial costs of her visit. As plans were being put into place for this to happen, I received the news that on the morning of October 12th, Senzeni was transported by ambulance back to Beatrice, where she died.

Yesterday, Kenny traveled to Senzeni’s rural home of Mukodzongi Village to attend her burial. Please join me in saying, “Nematambudziko,” or “We share your sorrow,” to Senzeni’s family, especially her mother, and her children Jesse and Tinashe. And if you play mbira, please play a song for my dear friend.    

Tariro girls shine and Tariro receives an Award!

The setting was Domboramwari high school in Epworth, about 15 km from Harare’s city centre. The event- Speech and Prize giving day, where students who excelled in their studies were being awarded prizes of excellence.

Multiple awards…

Well, Tariro Girls dominated the awards as four of them, yes four, received various awards at the event. First up was Bertha M, who won an academic award of excellence in Religious Studies then there was Morleen who scooped three awards in Shona, English and Accounts as well as another one for a good overall performance among the form fours.

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Morleen receiving multiple awards

There was also another category, The Smartest Students award and two Tariro girls landed the award. Bertha M was voted the smarted student followed by Rumbidzai M.

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The smartest Girl: Bertha is all smiles after scooping two awards including the smartest girl award.

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Another smart one. Rumbidzai M, who received another award for smartness

In honour of last year’s top performers in the Ordinary level examinations, the school also gave awards to top performers. It was in this category that Pride R, now doing lower six at another school received a prize.

Icing on the cake

As if that was not enough Tariro received an award in recognition of our “great support” to the school. Tariro’s executive director received the award on behalf of the organization.

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Some of the Tariro girls at Domboramwari pose with Executive Director Kenny (in Black Jacket), standing beside him is Morleen’s mother.

Thank you and we want more of your support…

As we exalt in these recent achievements, we never forget the strength behind our work- YOU . We dedicate this award to all of you who have supported us throughout the years, either through your donations or moral support.

this time of the year, we begin our fall fundraising campaign and we would like to call upon you to make a  one-time donation or to set up a recurring monthly donation to enable Tariro to continue educating and empowering Zimbabwean girls.

Your donation will go a long way in educating a girl

  • $30 will provide a student with school supplies (pens, paper, and sanitary ware) for the year.
  • $80 will provide a student with a new uniform, including shoes, socks, pants/skirt, shirt and tie.
  • $100 will cover the annual cost for a student to participate in Tariro’s music and dance ensemble.
  • $150 will enable a student to write her Ordinary Level exams, which are required for further study.
  • $300 will pay the annual     school  fees for one girl attending secondary school

All donations are tax-deductible in the US. Thank you!

A special Saturday for Tariro Girls !

Board members visiting…

Saturday was another special day for the Tariro Girls. Usually the girls meet for traditional dance practice and general meetings. However this one was a bit different as they mixed and interacted with two of Tariro’s board members who were in the country visiting. The two, Dr Stephanie Bengtsson and Dr Jo Ailwood are faculty members at the School of Education at the University of Newcastle Australia.

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Words of advice: The girls listen attentively as Jo illustrates a point.

The day started with Jo and Stephanie giving the girls some career guidance. After that the girls showcased some of their marimba music and traditional dances. As if to reciprocate the girls were treated to some Zumba and Salsa dancing lessons from Stephanie ( she is a licensed Zumba instructor). It was indeed, a jovial atmosphere for everyone – releasing stress and strengthening the body!

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On the dance floor: Stephanie leading the girls through some Zumba moves.

Gifts Gifts Gifts!

To put the icing on the cake, the girls received gift bags from Stephanie and Jo. In those bags was an assortment of stationery as well as sanitary ware. The girls were quite thankful for the gifts and couldn’t hide their joy.

Stephanie and Jo’s visit was a much needed morale booster for our girls. Not only did they have fun but they also benefited from the career guidance from professionals as well as invaluable gifts that will go a long way in empowering them.

The girls listening to Jo and Steph while holding their gift bags

The girls listening to Jo and Steph while holding their gift bags