Impact For Women
“When I grow up I want to be a housewife,” I said to my mother one day. I regretted it almost immediately when I saw the look on her face. To say she was disappointed is an understatement. I was interrogated for hours on why I would waste my education and intelligence on such low ambitions. It was almost an insult to my mother, who was working and studying at the same time to earn a better wage, so she could educate my sisters and me. My father was a reluctant provider for the family, could I not see how much my mother could not depend on him?
I was young, and it was sort of a spur of the moment sentiment, so I didn’t have credible answers. It was a moment that was quickly forgotten, conversations quickly discarded. I continued with my studies, finished high school well and went on to get my degree. Now, several decades later, I must own that those words were not merely the wishful musings of a summer day, but an expression of a deeper meaning I am only now beginning to understand.
First of the idea of me being a housewife in the typical sense is, to all people who know me, ridiculous. I do not enjoy cleaning, scrapping, polishing and fussing over laundry and soft furnishings. I am a very unwilling housekeeper. I realize now that what I have always valued about a woman raising her family is not so much the physical effort she exerts, but the impact she can have. I value inspired action: doing things with impact in mind, with the aim to achieve meaningful results.
If I could do over the afternoon with my mother I would tell her when I grow up I want to impact the people around me. What better way to start than in the home? All the values we seek to attain on a national level are values that can be translated, in one form or another, into family values. They are values we can teach our children and small communities. And what is a nation other than a collection of these small entities?
For several years I worked for a local NGO in implementing community development initiatives. I had to deal with housewives who had, by choice or circumstances, abandoned education for marriage and raising families. In trying to work with these women, their lack of education became a natural stumbling block in achieving the level of impact that the projects sought. This confirmed to me what I had subconsciously become aware of: if development is to be completely inclusive, everybody should be educated in one way or the other.
I recently completed a mobile application development program. For the project part of the course, I proposed an emergency response app aimed at caregivers. At the mention that this would be used by mothers and women in the home, I could see the all-male judging panel start to lose interest. “There isn’t much money to be made with that,” they told me. My project was considered inferior because it was domestic, and everyone knows generally domestic means women.
I believe because of the domestic role of women in development cannot be ignored. For example, women remain primary child care givers on the continent, therefore to harness the potential of the child we need to equip the women to nurture it appropriately. Innovations in education and child psychology, should be the privy of the women who spend the most time with the children.
My focus is therefore to bring enlightenment, education and exposure to the fundamental pillars of our communities. Through my IT Consultancy work I provide training and support particularly to women and girls who run the risk of being overlooked in technological advancement. No one will be pushing for innovations that benefit women directly unless women are the architects of the development. I am actively involved in empowerment projects that focus on income generation for women. As a mother to two daughters, I have a daily duty to model balancing career and family, without disparaging the choices they may make. I listen to their dreams and inspire them to pursue them and seek social impact as well. Above all, I never dictate what is the appropriate thing for them to desire as girls, apart from the expectation that they are equal to the other half of the gender.
My vision for the future is that from the home to boardroom, the women there will be well educated and tech savvy, more than well equipped to drive the destiny of the family and the nation.
About the author: Sharon Makunura, Zimbabwean Changemaker, ICT Consultant, Career Guidance Counsellor, Writer, Trainer, Volunteer, Mother to daughters.