What we can learn from Oprah Winfrey’s all time favourite guest: Tererai Trent!
"She symbolizes everything I believe The Oprah Show stands for," said Oprah when asked why Tererai Trent, was her all time favourite guest. “She proves you can keep reaching for your dreams, that one person can make a difference in the world—and above all, you have the power," Oprah says.
When I started writing this article I began with the girl being the victim and how more needs to be done to help girls get an education and the recognition they deserve. Then I realized something. Most of the success I have managed to attain in my life was driven by my ambition and refusal to give up irrespective of the odds against me. Don’t get me wrong; I think there are a lot of factors that are holding girls back from reaching their full potential, but I believe women and girls alike need to rise from the victim mentality and fight for that which they want. They need to realize that they are gifted individuals with the strength and ability to transform nations. All we need is a little fighting spirit added with some sheer determination. Sojourner Truth said it rightly; “If women want more rights than they got, why don’t they take it and stop talking about taking it.”
Let me share a little about Tererai. Her father did not allow her to go to school as a child mainly due to poverty but also he believed that the boy child is the one that deserved going to school so instead he sent her brother Tinashe. For Tererai he had other plans. According to Tererai, when she was sharing about her childhood experiences, she remembers the men in her village "pointing to the boys in the village and saying 'These are the breadwinners of tomorrow. We need to educate them. We need to send them to school. The girls will get married.'" She taught herself to read and write from her brother's school books. When her teacher discovered this as she did better that her brother in school, he begged Tererai's father to allow her to attend school. She then attended school for a short period, and as is the custom, her father accepted a brideprice of a cow and married her off at the age of 11. She had three children by age 18 and without a high school diploma.
Tererai Trent wanted to go to America and get a bachelor's degree, a master's, and eventually a PhD. Encouraged by her mother, Tererai wrote down these dreams, put the paper in a scrap of tin, and buried it. In 1998, she moved to Oklahoma with her husband and their five children. Three years later, she earned a bachelor's degree and then earned her master's degree after her husband was deported for abuse. After earning each degree, she returned to Zimbabwe, unearthed her tin and checked off each goal she accomplished, one by one. In December 2009, she earned her doctorate degree. Today, Tererai is happily remarried and holds a PhD!
I count myself blessed to have received an education of some sort at all. In fact for most girls in Zimbabwe, access to an education is really a privilege and not a right and Tererai’s story proves it. The high cost of education, exacerbated by hyperinflation, stereotypical norms, cultural and traditional perceptions has made girls’ education a “second priority” in Zimbabwe. I can personally testify to poverty and how it has affected girls education as my mother couldn’t afford my university fees. Despite this I looked for a job and enrolled in a degree with long distance study so that I could work and study at the same time to finance my degree. However the economy was so hostile, at some point I even stopped the degree for a good two years because I could longer afford the fees. Happily enough I can say, I am completing my degree now because I am now financially stable and determination had a big role to do with it.
The story of Tererai Trent, one of Oprah’s most favourite guests is an inspiration to a lot of women. These stories must be used as a platform to inspire young women that they can make it if they are determined. Through digital technology, social media and online tools we can now easily spread these inspirational stories on the web and encourage girls to pursue their dreams by getting inspiration from stories such as these of women who have had to fight for what they believe in. In this pursuit, I began a blog called “A day in the life of a Career Driven Woman” that shares on a personal level and also serves to inspire by sharing on women who are playing a role in development irrespective of odds. The url is tadzimadzimabosha.blogspot.com. I also tweet (@TadzieBosha) and share inspiration issues on women development. I love playing my role in inspiring other women and girls to pursue their goals and dreams!
I believe organizations such as Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), which pays for education for the girl child and schooling, have also played a big role in helping girls get an education. CAMFED supports girls’ access to education by raising community awareness about the importance of schooling. We could definitely do with similarly minded organizations but it starts with us women rising up to the challenge!
Girls need to be INSPIRED and ENCOURAGED that irrespective of the odds against them if they are determined enough they can get an education. They can achieve their dreams. Sometimes what you desire is not handed to you on a silver platter. Three quarters of the time you have to fight for it! I thank Tererai Trent for teaching me this lesson!