Patience Tarumbwa is one of Zimbabwe’s most accomplished women, a believer who is not ashamed of her faith and is not afraid to tell her story. She is the Co-founding director of the Rose GIFT Foundation, a foundation whose goal is to eradicate poverty and bring an end to child marriages within marginalised communities in Africa. She is a mother of four children who has mastered the balance between work and family. Patience is no stranger to controversy and the various problems of life. She has faced the worst life has to offer, and yet she has managed to rise above her circumstances to become an inspiration to other women, a gem and a force to reckoned with in the country, in Africa and around the world. She has since taken it upon herself, being in a position of power, to lift other women up. She had a chat with me about her life, her family, work and her future goals. She told her story with confidence, great poise and inspiration which brought me to tears and inspired and empowered me at the same time. I knew walking out of her office that there is definitely a part of me that would never be the same.
There its a lot that happened to me growing up. I was abused as a child and our home was broken. My parents fought a lot and there was always chaos. I did not have a stable background and support system. That moulded me into a person who was always prone to being taken advantage of. I remember I was never able to report the abuser because they always made it seem like everything was my fault. I was shamed and embarrassed to talk about it, I developed a “slut complex” as the abuser always made me think I was the one causing him to abuse me. As I grew into a teenager I longed for love, and that is when the bulk off the challenges began. I got into a relationship, without knowledge of birth control and got pregnant while I was in. South Africa.
I became a teen mom, and I had no-one with me there, and I lacked proper guidance. I got into another relationship, still as a teenager, because the person had made me believe that he could take care of me and my child. I had my second child. Looking back l always reflect on the fact that many young women become so vulnerable to this specific situation because they have children with no means of caring for them, and themselves. I was nineteen and a mother of two, unemployed in a foreign country. I decided to go back home. At the time I was afraid that my parents were bitter and angry with me. I remember a family friend came home with me and talked to my parents. I was accepted back home. It broke my father’s heart that all these bad things were happening to me. I had no other way but to soldier on.
This was when I then met my ex husband. It was a whirlwind romance and yet again I wanted to be with someone and I was happy to get what I could get, and because I did not believe that I deserved better. I settled for every ordinary thing. My low self esteem made me feel like I could not get any thing else being a mother with nothing to my name. We got married,had two kids and life had other plans. Our divorce was public, given his social standing. I hit rock bottom. At the time, no-one told me this was my story, that this was my journey, that one day I would travel the world, that I would be recognised for this story, for my work.
The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that you can’t go any further than that. The only way is up!Patience Tarumbwa
My breakthrough came when I was interviewed by Tatenda Rungisa on an article for The Weight She Carries. The platforms gave me an opportunity to tell my story, and more than that, it made me realise the strength that it carries. Talking about my life gave me an opportunity to see the bigger picture, more clearly. Slowly, I began to be in alignment with what God has called me to do. It wasn’t easy to look at my story from that point of view. I began to moan, I moaned for the different parts of my life that had gone by, I felt that were wasted. In that space, I prayed I turned to God.
It was through this article that I met my co- founding partner Dr Praise Matemavi, an Assistant Professor of Surgery at University of Mississippi Medical Center in the the United States. We have a lot in common which brought us together in partnership. Together we have built a christian based foundation that helps women that are in the same situation I and Dr Matemavi were in before. Because I am in a position power, I take it upon myself to lift other women up. When I help the people we work with, I am not coming from a high and mighty place, I’m not saying I have never done what they do, or I have not been through what they have been through. I am bringing myself to their experiences and giving from a point of understanding, compassion and desire to provide solutions to societal problems within the African context.
As I fly high, I remember my days of nothigness. And for this reasonI havevowed to help as many women as I can.Patience Tarumbwa
I have had some highlights I’m my career that have propelled me to greater heights. This year (August 2021) I was selected to be part of the Intercontinental Youth Leadership Program (Model United Nations)in Addis Ababa,Ethiopia. The program trains young men and women across Africa to become diplomats active in governance, decision making, leadership, civic awareness and corporate responsibility. I represented Rwanda, a strategy which the organisers use to promote unity and awareness to the problems that are happening all over Africa as a whole. I won an award for best verbal commendation, which has resulted me being selected to represent Zimbabwe in Istanbul,Turkey this November.
I have often said, growing up I wanted for my parents, my family or someone to see me, to see the many gifts that are in me. In the depths of everything negative that I was going through, I always knew I was made for greatness. For me, being seen for who I believe I am, was in a way a saving and I understand so many women in similar circumstances want that. We [at Rose GIFT] understand that many women have a plea to be seen and be heard. We have woven that into the core of the work we do as our motto is We S.E.E you, which means we Serve you, we Empower you and we Elevate. This is a cycle that keeps going as we pass it from one woman to another. Servant leadership is the basis of our work.
Over and above enabling women to rise against their circumstances. We are diversifying the foundation into a social enterprise. We are engaging them into agricultural project and mining project. The goal for me as a development practitioner its to provide sustainable solutions to the problems of gender inequality and abuse. Once we have helped the women overcome such set up, we are also offering hem an opportunity to be able to stand on their own, and take care of themselves and their children.