When the Zimbabwean non-profit, Tag a Life International Trust (TaLI) launched ‘Every Child in School’ campaign in 2017, over 270 Zimbabwean non-profits and NGOs signed on. The campaign pushed the Zimbabwean government to provide access to state-funded basic education for all children in Zimbabwe.
Since 2010, TaLI has empowered girls and women’s rights in the landlocked Southern African nation where 1 in 4 women experience sexual violence by age of 15. Either impregnated, or unable to afford public school tuitions, most girls skip education. Some 40% of Zimbabwe’s children living in poverty-stricken rural areas lack access to basic education and ultimately miss out on economic opportunities.
Educating Girls Balances our World
TaLI is now ensuring parents and communities across Zimbabwe know about the new government education policy. It also mandates the government to ensure nationwide funding for learners.
This is inline with the February launch of “The Drive for Five: A Call to Action to Educate Adolescent Girls.” Celebrities, youth activists and world leaders gathered at the UN Headquarters to spotlight adolescent girls’ education. The event, co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of Ireland, UN Women, the One Campaign and the Global Partnership for Education – was attended by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in attendance.
TaLI is the brainchild of its 39-year-old founder, Nyaradzo (Nyari) Mashayamombe. Nyari’s early childhood hardships, growing up in rural Zimbabwe inspired the creation of TaLI. She is the youngest of eight children born after her father’s death, raised by a single mother in the southern Shurugwi region. She watched her mother work “hard to make ends meet.” Nyari’s daily five-mile trek, each way to and from school–sometimes bare foot-did not deter her from completing her school.
All Odds Against Zimbabwean Women
As the world’s 22nd poorest country, some 72% of Zimbabwe’s 17 million population live under poverty lines. The country has 16 official languages. Compounding its low healthcare and life expectancy are high prevalences of HIV and fertility rates.
Women, faced with HIV/AIDS disease affecting 1.3 million Zimbabweans, are often single-mothers. The “informal unemployment” rate shows some 95% of the economically active people in the country are out of work. Jobs are scarce for single mothers who face widespread gender-based violence denying them basic human rights.
“My mother taught us to work hard and focus. Her powerful revelation was that education is the key out of poverty-and that’s why all her children pursued higher education to stand on,” says Nyari who after completing her high school got a Secretarial Studies Diploma. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing Management, and a Master of Science in Development Studies from the Women’s University in Africa. Selected as a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow, she spent five-months conducting research on young women’s leadership and political participation at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). She is now pursuing her correspondence law degree at the University of London.
In 2017, Nyari launched her TV show Identities Umhlobo–broadcast weekly on Zimbabwe’s only National TV station. A year later she launched her media initiative Identities Media Holdings–a platform she uses to amplify her own voice and that of other community development and human rights activists.
TaLI Champions Girls’ Rights
To date, TaLI has trained over 1,600 girls across Zimbabwe who direct empowerment clubs in schools and communities. Its 800 trained community peer educators lead dialogues around girls and women’s rights in rural communities. They champion for girls’ issues and provide access to psycho-social support and justice services in the event of vulnerabilities. TaLI has assisted over 350 girls’ access to judicial and post trauma services following sexual abuse. The program also educates boys on matters concerning girls’ rights.
From an early age, Nyari knew girls’ vulnerability in the male-dominated Zimbabwean society. Girls dating early ended up pregnant and dropped out of school to become young mothers. When at 15 her male teacher “proposed a relationship”, she reported it to the school headmaster.
She realized how girls, approached by mature males, didn’t know what to do. “When I launched TaLI, there was no program in Zimbabwe that included the boys, the men, and the community as a holistic strategy to hinder gender-based abuse.”
Prevention, Intervention and Advocacy
TaLI has three pillars of Prevention, Interventions and Advocacy. It focuses on Gender sensitization, Advocacy and Lobby, Capacity Building, Psycho-Social Support (Counselling and Referrals), HIV and AIDS Prevention/SRHR. While primarily engaging girls to build their voice, agency and body ownership, TaLI helps boys champion girls’ rights by empowering their sisters when challenged with ‘negative masculinities.’ To influence change within the family, TaLI works with various communities and tribes to ensure and build a safe environment for the girls.
“Some girls in Zimbabwean lack the exposure to alternatives of life, so they end up choosing marriage at a very young age, instead of focusing on their education,” explains Nyari. Trapped with “inter-generational relationships,” young girls, attracted by the money mature men offer can’t negotiate for safe sex and end up pregnant and or infected with sexually transmitted diseases.
Education Elevates Zimbabwe’s Girls and Women
Nyari knows that higher education is the key out of poverty. Education has matured her understanding of proper community development. She champions for girls and women with a clearer understanding, knowing how lack of “such direly needed resources robs women of their real potentials.”
Education has also given Nyari “a seat at the table.” To see inequality and call it by name with “humility and empathy for others.” As Chair of the Working Group on Women, Democracy, Human Rights and Security (WDHRS) at Forum 2000, she is also on the board of a global human rights alliance CIVICUS Global Alliance. She has fought fiercely for women’s rights before the Zimbabwean parliament demanding members to prioritize the next generation of children.
Fighting for UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) 4 and 5 (quality education and gender equality respectively) Nyari empowers girls to thrive to achieve all the other UNSDGs. It’s part of her DNA to be a nurturing role model since her name Nyaradzo’s means comfort like her work “in comforting girls.”
A part-time singer, song writer with three albums under her name, her passion for music has always been part of her life. Titling her latest album ‘Zvatiri’ identities in a way she says interpreted her “full circle of self-love and self-assurance.” In launching Identities Media Holdings (IMH) Nyari plans to produce documentaries, movies and television series to tell the stories of vulnerable girls, women, youths and society at large in Zimbabwe and throughout Africa.
“Africans can work hard to start social enterprises and initiatives to empower themselves, carry out their work, live respectable lives earning incomes to live the lives they desire,” Nyari confirms. “When I say to the young girls, ‘you can be anything you want to be in life’ I need my life to reflect my words. In starting a business I’m also showing the girls that all things are possible, and that they can pursue their dreams and still help their community.”