Today, I’d like to share with you the incredible story of Tariro’s first university graduate, Pauline Kawungwa. Please take a moment to read her moving story. And remember, Tariro is current in the midst of our annual fundraising drive. To help Tariro educate and empower more young women leaders like Pamela, please join us by making a donation online. And now for Pauline’s story, as told to Tariro program coordinator Tafadzwa Muzhandu:
Pauline’s Journey to Graduation
Pauline lived in Mhondoro with her mother, sister and brother, while her dad worked for a small horticultural farm in the city. This is very common in Zimbabwe, as whole families are unable to live in the city due to the cost of living. Pauline’s father lived in a single room, shared with another laborer, making it even harder for her family to visit. In Mhondoro, Pauline’s family were doing okay compared to their neighbors. They had a few cows and goats, and always had something to eat. As Pauline tells me her story, she keeps reminding me “ Fadzie we weren’t always poor, we had a loving family, and my mother wanted us to do well, my father earned little but he could bring something home”.
Losing her mom
In 2002 Pauline’s mother died, and her family (Pauline’s mum) took everything they had, from the cows to the floor mop. They left one saucepan-which leaked- and one blanket for Pauline and her siblings. Her father, who hadn’t paid brideprice, was forced to look for money before the mother could be buried. This is very common in Zimbabwe, where a woman’s relatives will demand brideprice before burying their daughter, and the funeral could be dragged for weeks. Pauline’s father had no property to sell so he borrowed money from relatives, colleagues and his employer to pay brideprice. Pauline says her mother was in the mortuary for weeks, because her father would bring one cow, and her mother’s family would say it wasn’t enough. Everyone would go back to the city, and when her father got some more money, they would all come back to the funeral until the entire brideprice was paid. Pauline did and still does not understand why anyone would want children to go through that, especially your sister’s or daughter’s children. Her mother’s passing changed everything, because they lost everything. Almost a decade later, her father is still paying debts from the funeral.
Trying to finish school
Pauline and her sister continued to farm and go to school. She managed to finish her O levels in Mhondoro, and passed 9 subjects. Her father told he her couldn’t afford to send her to A levels. She worked at a farm near Harare, doing manual labor. A visitor to the farm told her about a woman working at the US Embassy, who might be able to help. Pauline didn’t have the means to get into town, but after a month an aunt who lives in the suburbs asked her to come and live with her.
Working as a maid
Pauline thought she had got lucky, but realized the aunt only asked her to come because her maid had just left. Pauline lived with the aunt, and did all housework, but wasn’t fed properly. The family would send her to the shops to buy bread, and as soon as she returned from the shops they would send her out again for something else, and by the time she got back home the bread would be gone. Her aunt would tell her to wait for the next meal, and the same thing would happen.
Tariro = Hope!
Pauline did not stop thinking about the lady at the US Embassy, so one day she got the courage to walk from Ruwa (30km/19miles from the city center) to meet with Rebecca Mano at the Embassy. The guards would not let her in or call Rebecca the first time, so she went back home. She made the trip again, and one of the guards let her in. She told Rebecca her story, and they both talked about her options. During that same period, Jennifer had come to Zimbabwe and was doing outreach for Tariro. While Rebecca and her husband thought about paying Pauline’s school fees personally, they were taking care of several relatives at their home and were struggling to pay all the school fees, so they referred Pauline to Tariro. Tariro continued to pay for Pauline’s boarding fees for her A level exams and paid her university tuition. Pauline worked part time to pay for room and board. She said her university years were tough, as she had to take care of her sister as well, but she is grateful to Tariro because she believes without their support she wouldn’t have gone to A levels or to university.
The future: Helping others
Finally we start talking about the future and Pauline says she will bring her brother to the city and send him to school. She also offered to take in any other Tariro student if they ever need a place to stay. She would like to help other girls, but she feels it is also important to help her brother come to town. She says a boy in a village will probably end up with only primary school education, and possibly get married at 20, and work as a shepherd for the rest of his life. She doesn’t want that for her brother.
A life full of hope
When I asked Pauline what she eventually wanted to do, career wise, she said, “ I could teach, look for a job, or I could go back for my masters then work as a junior lecturer at the university! Right now I am going to continue working with a chemicals company because I am learning so much and have realized I have created my own contacts, so I might open my own soon”. Pauline laughs at herself and comments that five years ago she never thought she would be talking about such options.
Pauline is an incredible young woman, and we can’t wait to see where her life will take her in the next five years! Thanks for helping Tariro to provide educational opportunities for orphaned girls in Zimbabwe. We have two other students entering university this year, and we can’t wait to share their success stories with you in a few years’ time!