by Samera Edwards, Program Associate
Zimbabwe is the second stop for the TechWomen delegations this year, following the trip to Jordan two weeks ago and heading to Kazakhstan in March. The trip reconnects mentors and fellows, strengthens global networks, and also offers the opportunity to experience the STEM and entrepreneurship landscape, while providing added support to our fellows’ initiatives.
The delegation of more than 20 mentor alumnae, TechWomen fellows from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Cameroon, U.S. Department of State and IIE staff gathered in Harare on February 21 to begin a week packed with collaborative, informational and inspiring events. Day 1 included an introduction to the week’s activities, exploring Zimbabwe’s natural environment and closing the day with energizing music from fellows of OneBeat, another exchange program by the U.S. Department of State.
Many of the events, workshops and training sessions were planned in coordination with Techwomen Zimbabwe (TWZ), which was founded by 2013 fellows Aretha Mare and Rumbidzayi Mlambo. Other 2013 fellows from Zimbabwe, Unity Chipunza and Sibaliso Mhlanga, also work with Aretha and Rumbidzayi to support the organization’s mission to bridge the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship and mathematics. TWZ’s vision is “to be the cradle of female-led innovations.” Together, they support several initiatives in both urban and rural settings, including Technovation, Pamusha Technology Village, HerCode and Taungana. The thriving TWZ and active drive from TechWomen fellows is a reflection of the impact of the U.S. portion of the TechWomen program. For example, in 2013, TWZ supported 30 teams, a total of 150 girls, through the Technovation Challenge.
During the program briefing, the delegation learned about the culture of business and entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe. Director Arezoo Riahi interviewed Bertha Ndlovu, who is also part of TWZ. Bertha explained that people in Zimbabwe are relatively well educated, but there is high unemployment. Within businesses, one mostly finds men in positions of leadership. In general, the delegation was told to expect formality and a value for hierarchy in the business culture.
In the afternoon, the group switched gears to learn about the rich history of Zimbabwe and explore Bushman Rock Caves, which houses paintings that date as far back as 20,000 years.
Later, Nelliah, a Zimbabwean chemist, connected with her fellow women in STEM while she gave a tour of the Bushman Rock vineyards. The game drive was truly a highlight, as everyone was able to see the natural beauty and animals of Zimbabwe.
The end of the day brought the group back together for a welcome dinner with entertainment from OneBeat fellows Tariro NeGitare and Hope Masike. OneBeat is a U.S. Department of State exchange program focusing on cultural diplomacy through music. “OneBeat brings together emerging musical leaders from around the world to collaboratively create original work and to develop a global network of civically engaged music initiatives.” In a room full of people deeply committed to international exchange and global networks, the evening’s music was the perfect way to celebrate impactful programs like TechWomen and OneBeat.
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