By Phophi Tshikovhi
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY News.
Picture a river that flows into a dam. That river splits into streams along its path, thus providing water to surrounding plants as well. This analogy of a river is symbolic of a certain woman. A woman who just like the river, started from humble beginnings and later became a force, a well of inspiration. This woman is Dr Tererai Trent and she embodies what the word trailblazer means in my life. Trent was born in Zimbabwe and unlike her brother Tinashe, she was not given the opportunity to attend school because she was a female amongst many other things.
In her village, the boy child was seen as the breadwinner of tomorrow, thus he needed to be sent to school in order to be educated. “The girls will get married”, they always said. Trent’s burning passion for education led her to teach herself how to read and write from her brother’s books. After a period of time, she started doing her brother’s homework. Her teacher realized that the homework was completed quite well than her brother usually does. Her father allowed her to attend school for a short period of time until he married her off in exchange for a cow. By the time she was 18, she already had 4 children of which one died because she could not produce enough milk. “I come from a long line of generations of women who were married off when they were young before they could define their own dreams”, she said.
Trent believed that education would be a gateway to a life free from poverty. When she was 22, a woman called Jo Luck from Heifer International came to her village and asked her and other women what their dreams were. Trent wrote down those dreams in a paper which she then put in a scrap of tin and buried it. Luck emphasised the words “tino gona”, which meant it is achievable in Shona. Trent’s dreams were to go to the United States to get a bachelor’s degree, a masters and a PhD.
Today, Trent, a mother of five has completed her highest qualification (a PhD) and is now the author of a book titled “The Awakened Woman”. Trent was bent on changing the narrative for her daughters and future generations to come from her lineage. After reading about her story, I learnt that I too have a responsibility to change the narrative for my family and the future generations to come. Her strength has reminded me just how much I am capable of as a young woman. Now I live my life with a resounding quote at the back of my head, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”.