Dr Tererai Trent: A global Zimbabwean icon with her nation at heart

All the people of Zimbabwe are deeply proud of you & your work promoting equality & empowerment for girls & women -President of Zimbabwe

Dr Tererai Trent, a Zimbabwean scholar and philanthropist is the only African to be selected amongst a list of 10 women who will be honoured for inspiring the world. She will have a life-size statue of herself unveiled in New York for her work championing gender equality and education.

She is in good company receiving the ‘Statue of Equality’, with other statues being dedicated to Oprah Winfrey, Hollywood star Nicole Kidman and Olympic gymnast, Gabby Douglas.

“Statues of Equality is set to launch in #NYC this summer. I am incredibly honored to be standing among the World’s Top 10 Most Inspiring Women ‘Sculpted for Equal Rights’! Come August 26 and celebrate the empowerment of women and big dreams! #StatuesForEquality” she announced on her Twitter account.

She further went on to tweet:

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Trent was born in Matau village, in Mashonaland West’s Karoi District. Due to cultural norms at the time and limited resources, her family had to choose which sibling to send to school. “As a cattle-herding tomboy, I was bound to follow in the footsteps of generations of women before me: early marriage, illiteracy, and poverty,” she said.

Her family chose to send her brother to school because he was a boy. This piqued her curiosity for education as she began teaching herself how to read from her brother’s schoolbooks, and often did his homework for him.

Her father later submitted to her passion to learn and allowed her to go to school, but after two terms she was forced to drop out when she was married off at the age of 11.

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At the age of 20, a conversation with her mother ignited a desire in her to dream about her future. Her mother asked her to write her dreams down on a piece of paper and bury it.

Her dreams included traveling, attaining educational qualifications up to Doctorate level, and most importantly impacting her community. “Your dreams will have greater meaning if they are connected to your community”, were the words her mother told her when she was encouraging her to have something to believe in.

Her determination and perseverance were critical to her success, even after enduring abuse at the hands of her first husband once they had relocated to the US. Trent remained focused and steadfast in pursuing her dreams, and kept her home Zimbabwe at the centre of her vision.

“A cattle herder who married young, and by age 18 had three children and no high school diploma. But I defied the odds, got an education and came back to build a school.”

After accomplishing each of her goals, she would return home to her village to unearth her list and tick off each accomplishment one by one. Finally, an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show led to Oprah donating $1.5 million towards assisting Trent towards her dream of developing educational facilities in her village, Matau.

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Her efforts and commitment to ploughing her exposure back into her home, has resulted in tangible change. “Matau parents and villagers are seeing the value of educating girls. Girls can become leaders of our communities and our African nations. Many parents bring their daughters to me and ask: “Can she be just like you?” says Trent.

Whereas Dr Trent’s statue may stand in New York as of August, her impact and her legacy will resonate in Zimbabwe and beyond for generations to come. The President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa voiced the opinions of many when he tweeted;

“Congratulations @TereraiTrent who has been honoured as one of the 10 most inspiring women in the world, part of the ‘Sculpted for Equal Rights’ initiative. All the people of Zimbabwe are deeply proud of you and your work promoting equality and empowerment for girls and women”.

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