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From chalk to talk

rebecca chisamba with her awards

Albert Einstein once said that the true purpose of education is to train the mind to think. Rebecca strongly echoes these words. “My job is far more difficult than it looks. In a classroom you are in charge and you simply impart book knowledge. My job here is to impart wisdom from life experiences and it is still teaching but in a different way. People have to think about the implications of their actions. Now I talk to teach and teach to talk,” she says with a smile.

Humble, confident and motherly are words that can easily find a home with her. I had expected to find doors of steel barring my way to see the queen of talk but it was with wide open arms that I was met. It felt like I was home. “No one ever comes here to see me and leaves without seeing me, no matter how busy I may be,” she says seriously. This statement is true and speaks volumes of the down to earth nature of Rebecca Chisamba, award winning talk show host. She is a woman who has brought dignity to Zimbabwean women.

A teacher by profession her broadcasting career came by accident. One she says she was upset about at the time. Whilst teaching, she was chosen for schools broadcast by her headmaster because of her eloquence. She thought it was impossible but she was soon not only involved in schools broadcast but became the voice of several radio programmes, but it was those dealing with women that touched her. She realised people needed to speak out but had no platform. Armed with only her wit and voice she resigned from radio broadcast to launch her talk show where she promotes interpersonal and intercultural dialogue through offering a platform that promotes free exchange of ideas in search of lasting solutions to today’s challenges. Her show was born of her perseverance and hard work. In the beginning she thought she had bitten off more than she could chew. How could she record a program with no money, staff, studio or equipment? But with her stubborn faith, she discarded the doubts and years later her success is evidenced by her numerous awards.

Rebecca impenitently and courageously denounces social ills, encouraging conflict resolution through dialogue. “It’s always about what is the problem not who is the problem.”

She has broken taboo speaking openly on all social issues. Although popular, her show was criticised for its themes but she is adamant that these are issues causing the breakdown of society’s moral fibre. Her inspiration comes from many individual life transformations drawn from viewers in Zimbabwe and beyond. She focuses on educating women about their rights and encourages them to know the law so that they can use it to protect themselves.

Her favourite book is the Duramazwi (Shona dictionary) as she says, “Who we are is best defined through our language.” She is a proud Shona speaker who has made it popular through her rich use , and has broken barriers because by using Shona she reaches a wider audience and maintains cultural identity. In this regard she has coined Shona words for words found in English but absent in local language. She aims to “promote progressive cultural values.” She is an advocate for the end to cultural practices that harm the integrity and dignity of women such as vaginal mutilation, and clitoris enlargement.

She takes an inclusive approach by also recording her shows in rural areas, overcoming geographical barriers to access of information whilst promoting indigenous knowledge systems. She takes aboard all social classes especially grassroots women who have no access to information because of poverty, inequality and lack of education.
Her show comes with a personal touch. “I want everyone to get help and if someone feels that by talking to me they will be better then I need to talk to that person. People call me round the clock with some coming to my home seeking assistance.” She has filled in the shoes of mother and aunt to many. She says “I now have many children, some whom I have never met and every day I get more.”

She encourages, promotes, and unites women. She was once hospitalised a night before an important meeting. She begged the doctor to be discharged in the early hours of the morning and attended the meeting showing she is not a woman who can easily be stopped. “Those women needed me and I could not let them down. They had come from all the corners of Zimbabwe and nothing could have stopped me.”

She has been threatened and physically attacked because of the sensitive and controversial topics she tackles. She was once arrested together with Betty Makoni because of a show on the rape of young girls and delayed justice. Unfazed, she notes that it means she is doing something right. She will not stop imparting information but works within the confines of the law. Sometimes she feels like a soldier and has realised even the bad times are good. Many men come to the show because they want to be part of the social change.

She has defied criticism and labels hurled at her. Her sexuality has been used to discredit her success and development but she brushes the stories away. She wants women to focus on bigger problems and her advice to women is, “Bloom where you are. It does not matter the circumstances, wherever a woman is she should aim to change her situation.”

Her story is a story of hope and courage, leaving the familiar, venturing into unknown territory and emerging victorious.
She is not afraid of persecution or retribution and says until women are treated equally she cannot rest and is prepared to face anything that stands in the way of empowering women. As we end she determinedly says,” When you have set snares in a burnt area you are not afraid of blackened buttocks” (Shona proverb).

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

rebecca chisamba
with her prized duramazwi-shona dictionary
rebecca being awarded an honarary master's degree by women's unirvesity in africa

Comments

bitani's picture

very touching

Thank you for sharing the profile of Rebecca. I loved your writing and almost can see through the article. great work!

pelamutunzi's picture

welcome

thank you for reading the post. she is indeed doing great work for the women here in zimbabwe

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Debra Engle's picture

"Encourages, promotes, unites"

Thank you for introducing us to Rebecca and her important work. It's inspiring to hear what this determined and tenacious woman is doing to create positive change. Just like her programs, your article encourages, promotes and unites by sharing her message so clearly. Great job!

pelamutunzi's picture

thanks be to you

and you have made all this possible. thank you for making me confident and helping me when i was really down. thank you and yes rebecca is an important part of the zimbabwean culture. once again thank you, looking forward to the next assignment.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Aminah's picture

“Bloom where you are"

What a wonderful writeup.
You have not wasted any words. The entire piece is packed with new information about the very inspiring Rebecca Chisamba. Great writing skills.

And as for her role in helping women and their plight - I say she is an excellent role model. May there be many more Rebecca Chisamba's.

Salaam
Aminah

pelamutunzi's picture

it is so

thank you for reading. iam humbled and indeed she is a star and a role model. i hope there will be more rebecca chisamba's.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Nadz's picture

I love Her

I loved your writing because I could connect with Rebecca, I thin k you represented her extremely well. Good job, your writing was clear and precise and filled with beautiful adjectives.
Nadz

Life is just for living

pelamutunzi's picture

thank you

thank you nadz. iam glad you managed to connect with rebecca. she is an inspiration to me . thank you for reading and the lovely complements

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Greengirl's picture

Well done!

Dear Pela, you've done a great job with Rebecca Chisamba's Profile. It is a very well coordinated piece of writing. As for her work, she must be applauded for her uncommon style of transforming lives positively. I particularly like and agree with these expression, “It’s always about what is the problem not who is the problem.” It is the way to go about solving problems in a peaceful manner.

I am glad I read your post!

Greengirl

pelamutunzi's picture

true conflict resolution

she has made such a huge impact for us and her style is uniquely beautiful. thank you for the complements iam humbled. and true blaming someone is not the solution but facing the problem.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Klaudia Mexico's picture

let's talk

Indeed if she has the gift of being a good talker, why not to use it in benefit of other people!
I enjoyed your piece very much
congratulations!

Klaudia González

pelamutunzi's picture

yes we'll talk

yes and she is using her gift well. thank you for reading and glad you enjoyed the piece

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

libudsuroy's picture

Thank you for sharing with us

Thank you for sharing with us this profile of a model media-based advocate, someone who uses the media for women's empowerment and to promote women's rights. By your writing, Rebecca's empathy, passion, compassion and wisdom shine through.
You have also illumined the challenges that she faced and how she weathered each of these. Her story showed me strategies to cultivate and enhance cultural heritage and the native tongue, and how when used creatively, language through the mass media, can unite people towards the fulfillment of a common goal.

.

Blessings,
libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

pelamutunzi's picture

you are right

you have hit the iron on the head on Rebecca's work. she has challenged the status quo and changed people's perceptions. she is a hero and a true advocate for women's empowerment. language is a tool tha can empower people. thank you for reading

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

JaniceW's picture

A great subject to interview

Nicely written. You chose your subject well and I feel as if I know her already. It also was informative providing good background information into the issues women in Zimbabwe face.

The only other comment I would make is that towards the end, you started many sentences with "She..". Might I suggest that you break these up by finding another way to start some of the sentences. Your paragraph that starts with "A teacher by profession..." is a good example of this. Your writing is compelling and with this slight modification, your pieces will be even stronger.

Well done.

pelamutunzi's picture

thank you

thank you for the insight. will keep that in mind as I write. Rebecca is indeed a woman fighting for women to be empowered

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Y's picture

One word: Wow!

One word: Wow!

Y

pelamutunzi's picture

humbled

your comment has truly humbled me. its a comment filled with meaning for me and i am excited this is your reaction. thank you.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

...now I see the pics and it's undeniable - your writing has been the perfect mirror for the light and strength I can see in her eyes.
Thank you so much, Pela! It's been such a wonderful journey... shall we go for the next one? :)

Love,
San

@SanPatagonia
Be a voice, tell a story, start the fire. | Sé una voz, cuenta una historia, enciende el fuego.

pelamutunzi's picture

am glad

i feel happy that she has come to life through the pictures and writing. its all thanks to you. grateful for your help and yes lets go forward-cant wait. thank you once again.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Deqa's picture

I like how many other

I like how many other correspondents chose Education activists like I did. I loved your story and it is captivated and it touches me because I love education and education activists. You have narrated her story quite beautifully and I loved reading it. Excellent choice my dear and excellent writing.
Deqa

pelamutunzi's picture

shows how important

this shows how important education is for us women and their empowerment. thank you for the beautiful comments.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Ayunnie's picture

Bloom where you are

Dear Pela,
I was so captivated by Rebeca's story, she is a true leader who does not get intimidated. Thank you for bringing her to world pulse.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

pelamutunzi's picture

blooming already

yes her story is an inspiration for me and iam glad you also got the vibe that iam getting from her. she is headstrong in her approach and commands respect and fearless in doing her work. thank you for reading.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Iryna's picture

Amazing writing

It's a very interesting story, Pelamutunzi, about a strong woman whose energy you can feel even through photos! She must be really brave and wise woman to confront all difficulties, misunderstandings and pursuits she had. Her beautiful smile is shining with optimism and gives a hope that you can change the world. I liked that Rebecca invites men to these changes.
Warm greetings from Ukraine,
Iryna

pelamutunzi's picture

changing the world

changing the world requires all of us and we cant exclude men from the process but we need them to be more aware and help in changing attitudes and rebecca is doing this so well. she is zimbabwe's mother as she can challenge traditional cultures that are retrogressive and people including men agree with her. i am glad i met her and chose her for my profile

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

jampa's picture

Honor to get to know Rebecca

So well presented your subject and her work Dear Pela,
She is amazing and her words touched my heart so hard so that i will remember Rebecca.
Congrats with your work,
Jampa

pelamutunzi's picture

thank you

thank you jampa for your kind words. i am glad i managed to present her so well. do you have any women making changes or activists in the media circles.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Precious M's picture

Great subject

I am happy to meet Rebecca through you. You did not only choose an amazing woman, but you presented her story in quite a creative way. I love the, "From chalk to talk". When I saw that title, I could not resist coming here to read the story. And this is the first time I am hearing about clitoris enlargement! Maybe you should explore that subject for another writeup.

Love,
Precious

My pen speaks

pelamutunzi's picture

hello

how are you glad you read this profile and loved the title. it doesnt only have a literal but symbolic meaning as well. will also explore the subject of clitoris enlargement but it is done to make men happy and has led some women to lose all sexual feeling. really sad as it has also led to infections. i will specifically right and share about it.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Hideko N.'s picture

We all need humble, confident

We all need humble, confident and motherly personality that embrace everyone like goddess, as she says, “No one ever comes here to see me and leaves without seeing me, no matter how busy I may be,” She takes risks of speaking out on sensitive issues. You arranged writing in such ineresting ways that made me to read through with curiocity. It is for me very difficult sometimes to be patient with others but she seemed to overcome that stage.Really would love to know what was the sources of such strength. Thank you.
Hideko N.
https://www.facebook.com/Swacin
http://www.swacin.com

pelamutunzi's picture

thank you too

thank you too for reading. i indeed found her to be patient and warm can you believe that she answers her phones viewers call her and share their problems with her. both men and women and she counsels and refers busy as she is. she is truly amazing.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

saraho's picture

Inspiring Story!

Thank you for sharing Rebecca's story and showing the hope and healing that happens with dedication and a willingness to see where change is needed and to speak out! I loved reading about how Rebecca has made a difference in so many lives, and how by her very actions she can inspire other women to step up and use their gifts to help others.

I love how she was so welcoming to you and willing to share her story. I also like how she encourages conflict resolution through dialogue. Thank you for sharing this hopeful tale!

Sarah O'Leary
Editorial Mentor, Voices of Our Future

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Meade

pelamutunzi's picture

hope is not lost

with people like rebecca hope for a better future is there. what inspired me most about her is her passion. during the interview she answered calls from viewers who needed help. i remeber one man was fighting with his wife and wanted rebecca to resolve their issue. instead of beating her he talked to rebecca and she referred them after a promise they would no longer fight. 30 minutes later the wife called and thanked rebeca because for the first time the husband had not beat her but agreed to talk to someone. such calls characterise the calls she receive and that helped me judge her impact. it was greater than what i had even thought. and she prefers to talk to people herself because she wants people to get peaceful solutions.

thank you for readng.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Pelamutunzi,

Thank you for introducing Rebecca through your writing and photos. You have given the world a picture of an inspiring, determined woman. What a fine role model you have portrayed. Congratulations!

I encourage you to keep on blooming where you are.

Sally
Vision Mentor, VOF

pelamutunzi's picture

will bloom nomatter what

oh thank you so much. i will definitely bloom where i am. rebecca has inspired me and thousands of african women to conquer despite present circumstances. she is selfless and tackles all issues and people listen to her. if someone does something wrong i.e beating a woman people will quickly say we will call mai chisamba(rebecca).
thank you for reading.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Maura Bogue's picture

Great Work!

Congratulations on completing your first assignment! You used the quotes you collected really well.

Next time, try and focus on one big accomplishment or defining moment of your subject’s life that makes them newsworthy instead of feeling as if you need to include a full biography of your subject.

Overall, good job!

Best,
Maura

pelamutunzi's picture

thank you

i appreciate the comments and will use your advice. it was challenging and at one point i froze and was unable to write. maybe it was anxiety i dont know. thanks to deb and sandra my mentors who helped me regain my confidence and encouraged me. iam enjoying this chance as well as learning a lot. i appreciate life more and i see many things i never saw before. i have become conscious of my world and all the stories untold that must be told to change our future.
thank you for reading

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Zoepiliafas's picture

Nice work

I love that you recognize that "Her show was born of her perseverance and hard work.". For too often we attribute success with good fortune but your piece calls out the work ethic required to achieve this.

You write: " She focuses on educating women about their rights and encourages them to know the law so that they can use it to protect themselves." I wonder if she would be interested in joining World Pulse. She could perhaps reach more people by networking with our women online. What do you think about inviting her to our community?

You also write: "Many men come to the show because they want to be part of the social change." I would love to see the men that she knows join our community. We need to find out male allies. We need to begin expecting them to support our visions. How do you think we could tap into her network?

Lastly, I never heard this quote before "When you have set snares in a burnt area you are not afraid of blackened buttocks” (Shona proverb).I love it!

Nice work! I truly want to know her! Let's bring this leader on the PULSE!

Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager
World Pulse

pelamutunzi's picture

wonderful idea

i totally agree with you that hard work should never be underestimated for success. yes a lot of women now know the law and turn to her. i am meeting Rebecca later this week to give her a copy of the profile and the WP community's responses. i am positive she will be glad and will certainly want to join the network.

yes many men want change and as i speak to her i hope we can be able to find ways to reach the men. i have been talking about WP a lot and i am happy to see people i have talked to joining WP. i will let you know how it also goes. i agree we need men aboard as allies.

lastly thank you for reading.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

SanPatagonia's picture

Spanish translation | En Español!

De la tiza al talk-show
por Pelamutunzi

Albert Einstein una vez dijo que el verdadero propósito de la educación es entrenar la mente para pensar. Rebecca es fuerte eco de estas palabras. “Mi trabajo es bastante más difícil de lo que parece. En una clase estás a cargo y simplemente impartes el conocimiento de los libros. Mi trabajo aquí es impartir sabiduría desde la experiencia de vida y todavía es enseñar, pero de un modo diferente. La gente tiene que pensar en las implicancias de sus acciones. Ahora hablo para enseñar y enseño a hablar”, dice con una sonrisa.

Humilde, segura y maternal son palabras que pueden encontrar con facilidad un hogar en ella. Esperaba hallar puertas de acero cortando mi camino para ver a la reina del talk-show, pero fue con los brazos abiertos que me recibió. Me sentí como en casa. “Nunca alguien viene aquí a verme y se va sin haberme visto, no importa cuán ocupada esté”, dice con seriedad.
Esta afirmación es verdadera y habla a raudales de la naturaleza con los pies en la tierra de Rebecca Chisamba, la premiada conductora de talk-show. Es una mujer que ha traído dignidad a las mujeres zimbabuas.

De profesión maestra, su carrera en medios de comunicación llegó por accidente. Una con la que ella dice haberse sentido molesta en ese momento. Mientras enseñaba, fue elegida por su director para un programa escolar debido a su elocuencia. Pensó que era imposible, pero pronto no sólo estaba involucrada en programas escolares sino que se había convertido en la voz de varios programas de radio. Pero eran esos relacionados con las mujeres los que la conmovían. Se dio cuenta de que la gente necesitaba hablar pero no tenía una tribuna. Armada con solo su ingenio y voz, renunció a la radio y lanzó su talk show desde donde promueve el diálogo interpersonal e intercultural al ofrecer una tribuna que impulsa el libre intercambio de ideas en la búsqueda de soluciones duraderas a los desafíos de hoy. Su show nació de su perseverancia y trabajo duro. Al principio pensó que había mordido más de lo que podía masticar. ¿Cómo iba a poder grabar un programa sin dinero, staff, estudio o equipamiento? Pero con su fe tenaz, descartó las dudas y años después su éxito fue evidente al recibir numerosos premios.

Rebecca incorregiblemente y con valentía denuncia males sociales, animando a la resolución de conflictos a través del diálogo. “Siempre es sobre cuál es el problema, no quién es el problema.”

Ha roto los tabúes hablando abiertamente sobre todos los temas sociales. Aún cuando es popular, su show ha sido criticado por sus temas, pero ella insiste en que estos son los temas que están causando la ruptura de la fibra moral de la sociedad. Su inspiración proviene de muchas transformaciones de vidas personales tomadas de televidentes en Zimbabwe y más allá. Está enfocada en educar a las mujeres acerca de sus derechos y las anima a conocer las leyes de forma tal que puedan usarlas para protegerse a sí mismas.

Su libro favorito es el Duramazwe (diccionario de Shona) ya que dice: “quiénes somos está mejor definido a través de nuestro idioma”. Es una orgullosa hablante de Shona, que ha hecho popular a través de su rico uso, y ha roto barreras porque al usar el Shona llega a una audiencia aún más amplia y mantiene la identidad cultural. En este sentido, ha acuñado palabras en Shona que se encuentran en Inglés pero están ausentes en el idioma local. Apunta a “promover valores culturales progresivos”. Ella aboga por el fin de las prácticas culturales que lesionan la integridad y dignidad de las mujeres, como la mutilación vaginal o el agrandamiento del clítoris.

Ella toma un enfoque inclusivo al grabar sus shows en áreas rurales, superando las barreras geográficas de acceso a la información al mismo tiempo que promocionando sistemas de conocimiento indígenas. Aborda todas las clases sociales, especialmente las mujeres de la comunidad que no tienen acceso a la información debido a la pobreza, inequidad y falta de educación.
Su show viene con un toque personal. “Quiero que cualquiera reciba ayuda y si alguien siente que se sentirá mejor si me habla, entonces necesito hablar con esa persona. La gente me llama a cualquier hora y algunos vienen a mi casa buscando ayuda”. Ha cumplido el rol de madre y tía para muchos. Ella dice: “ahora tengo muchos hijos, algunos de los cuales nunca he conocido, y cada día tengo más”.

Ella anima, promueve y une a las mujeres. En una ocasión fue hospitalizada la noche antes de una reunión importante. Le rogó al médico que le diera de alta temprano en la mañana y asistió a la reunión demostrando que no es una mujer que pueda ser detenida con facilidad. “Esas mujeres me necesitaban y no hubiera podido decepcionarlas. Habían venido de todos los rincones de Zimbabwe y nada me habría detenido”.

Ha sido amenazada y ha recibido ataques físicos debido a los temas sensibles y controversiales que aborda. Una vez fue arrestada junto a Betty Makoni debido a un show sobre la violación de jóvenes y la justicia demorada. Sin inmutarse, señala que eso significa que estaba haciendo algo bien. No se detendrá en la difusión de información pero trabaja dentro de los límites de la ley. Algunas veces se siente como una soldado y se ha dado cuenta de que aún los malos tiempos son buenos. Muchos hombres vienen al show porque quieren ser parte del cambio social.

Ella ha desafiado a la crítica y las etiquetas que le endilgan. Su sexualidad ha sido usada para desacreditar su éxito y progreso pero ella se saca las historias de encima. Quiere que las mujeres se concentren en problemas más importantes y su consejo para ellas es: “florezcan donde estén. Sin importar las circunstancias, donde quiera que esté una mujer debiera apuntar a cambiar su situación”.

Su historia es una historia de esperanza y coraje, dejando lo familiar, aventurándose en territorio desconocido y emergiendo victoriosa.
No tiene miedo a la persecución o la represalia y dice que hasta que las mujeres sean tratadas con igualdad no puede descansar, y está preparada para enfrentar lo que sea que se cruce en el camino de empoderar mujeres. Mientras terminamos la entrevista, dice con determinación: “Cuando has puesto trampas en una zona quemada, no temes a las asentaderas ennegrecidas” (proverbio Shona).

@SanPatagonia
Be a voice, tell a story, start the fire. | Sé una voz, cuenta una historia, enciende el fuego.

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