In April, 2019, Utah Global Diplomacy welcomed the powerful Ekenia Chifamba to Utah under the US Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program of NGO Management administered by the Meridian International Center in D.C. The program cohort included leaders from various countries, all working towards the shared goal of improved societies. For Ms. Chifamba, that work focuses specifically on the empowerment of girls. Hailing from Zimbabwe, Ms. Chifamba is a passionate girl’s rights activist who has worked as an Anti-Domestic Violence Council Member, Civil Society Reference Group member, Civicus Alliance Membership Advisory Group Member, Spot Light Initiative member, World`s Children`s Prize Foundation Focal Point in Zimbabwe, Fredrica Nauman Fellow, motivational speaker, and philanthropist. Her passion for the cause of female empowerment is proving integral to the progression of Zimbabwe.
Roughly the size of Montana, Zimbabwe is a small but richly diverse nation nestled in the heart of southern Africa home to 15 million people and 16 different official languages. While Zimbabwe continues to progress since its official independence from Great Britain in 1980, the country still faces significant challenges in health resources and social equity between genders. Like other countries in the region, the epidemic of HIV presents a significant threat for Zimbabwe citizens, particularly for adolescent women who are twice as likely to contract the disease compared to their male counterparts (WHO, 2022). With only 26% of the population having access to HIV prevention programs, the issue becomes ever more apparent. Women and girls also face inequities in the professional and academic sphere, with lower rates of technical comprehension, lower rates of political and legal representation, and high rates of gender-based violence. To address these issues, Ms. Chifamba conceptualized and founded Shamwari Yemwanasikana, an organization that focuses specifically on the empowerment of girls and women. Roughly translated as “Daughters Friend”, Shamwari Yemwanasikana works with communities, schools, and the government to advocate for and support girls through the five pillars of psychosocial support, economic empowerment, advocacy, capacity building, and Sexual and Reproductive Health education. Visit their website to learn more about their work.
During her time in Utah, Ms. Chifamba had the opportunity to interact with a variety of different organizations to be introduced to NGO management methods and form valuable international partnerships. During her visit with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and Utah Commission of Service and Volunteerism, Ms. Chifamba gained a greater appreciation for the importance of volunteerism. Prior to her visit, she volunteered to help other organizations set up new systems and procedures. Inspired by the work of the Utah Commission, she encouraged her team members to join her in donating their time to the establishment of these small organizations. To date, ten organizations have benefitted from their services.
Additionally, a visit with Scott Mietchen, President of the Fund Raising Counsel, provided her with the tools, resources, and knowledge on new fundraising tactics. Ms. Chifamba has since raised nearly one million dollars a year to support the initiatives of Shamwari Yemwanasikana. Additionally, she notes, “A visit with Girl Scouts of Utah taught me best practises on engaging girls meaningfully on socio-political and economic conversations. We have since launched a girls collective platform which houses girls rights centered organizations as well as a school of leadership which empowers girls to lead in various aspects.”
Ms. Chifamba notes that her most impactful experience was the opportunity to meet with Springboard Utah, an organization that works to empower women in the home and in the workplace. She explains, “My experience with SpringBoard Utah encouraged me that if women are well supported they can effectively serve in governments and on boards. I was inspired to take up leadership positions without fear of being judged. I have since taken up the office of the Anti-Domestic Violence Council as a Councilor as well as the Spotlight Civil Society Reference Group. I am now the board secretary for the National Association of NGOs in Zimbabwe and sit on several non-profit and for-profit boards.” The meeting was so impactful that Ms. Chifamba plans to run for office as a Member of the Parliament of Zimbabwe this year.
Since her time in Utah, Ms. Chifamba and her organization have worked to fast-track legislation protecting girls against child marriages in an official bill petition, increase equitable access to menstrual products, and push national legislation regarding trafficking to fall in line with international law.
We are so honored to have this connection to Ms. Ekenia Chifamba and look forward to learning more about her innovative and crucial work to support and promote the empowerment of girls in the beautiful country of Zimbabwe.
To read another interview with Ekenia Chifamba, explore the Meridian International National Women’s History Month article here.