After learning about a current project Sseko Brave Collective member Chido Dhliwayo is embarking on to help her mother publish a book, we were captivated by the story she is telling and the story of her mother, Letwina’s journey. While acclimatizing herself in Portland, Chido attended Portland State University and it was through an internship she had that crossed paths with Sseko. Sseko Designs had brought the documentary “Girl Rising” to Portland and it was there that Chido first learned about Sseko’s mission and ultimately joined the Sseko Brave Collective. It wasn’t long until Chido and Letwina began taking Brave steps together! We are honored to share with you the story of these two and how bravery has shaped the narrative they are writing.
I grew up as the only girl in a family of four and was the only sibling to obtain a degree at the University of Zimbabwe. Despite the obstacles I had to overcome, I got my dream job as a project manager at the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and married the man of my dreams (at the time). I gave birth to two amazing children and I thought I had it all figured out. During this time, the Zimbabwean economy was booming, agriculture was thriving and the donor community was investing into numerous programs. I lived comfortably, while my children attended private boarding schools I looked forward to hosting/attending baby showers every now and then.
When I think of a Sseko Brave I think of a woman who goes for what she wants. A goal driven, passionate woman who, despite the odds, gets to the finish line. My hard work had paid off and I was proud of myself for staying in school, though numerous family members had discouraged me. I was proud to have finally become financially independent despite growing up in a village where as a girl-child I was raised to believe that my only potential was becoming a wife.
I was at my peak. It was India for a week to evaluate programs and Washington DC for another to meet with other invited delegates at conferences that tackled issues such as poverty alleviation. All this came crashing down. My marriage collapsed and in the midst of the hyperinflation crisis that was as bad if not worse than the great depression, I watched my life slowly slip through my fingers. NGOs began to retract their investments and the Zimbabwe I had once flourished in was no more.
I had to put in insurmountable effort in every step I took to prove my worth, determination, perseverance, morality and sometimes innocence. During this time, I deeply resonated with one of those cliche sayings that goes, “this journey is not so much about what happens to you but how you responds to these events – good and bad.” I used two simple strategies and like a caterpillar wrapped in an ugly dark cocoon, I wriggled myself out of political, social and economic instability in Zimbabwe into a free world to become a colorful butterfly.
I like to think that I had planned it from the beginning. However, my journey to America was filled with surprises and unexpected turns. Two months before my fiftieth birthday, the day of my mother’s memorial service on a summer midday at the Harare International Airport in Zimbabwe, I made a move on the global compass. With my entire belongings represented in two medium sized suitcases and a small hand luggage and leather handbag, I moved to America. I was 50, single and as a mother of two I was leaving my life in Zimbabwe for the greener pastures in America. You see, I left the politically unstable economy of Zimbabwe desperate and while I had travelled to America before I couldn’t fathom the idea of actually uprooting my life and starting over, I had to find my bearings in a foreign land.
We have all experienced breaking points. It’s in these darkest moments where, as women, we face our fears and have the opportunity and choice to do something about it. To have faith, to believe in yourself and take risks, to prove the naysayers wrong, to throw yourself into life and with unpreparedness but no hesitance, grasp on to what you love with a grip so tight sweaty palms wouldn’t stand a chance! It’s in this moment I, you, we epitomize a Sseko Brave!
Bhindy realizes her dream in the midst of life’s catastrophes. Age will not wither her, nor will tragedies hinder her infinite and relentless desire to live her dream!
I hope my story resonates with someone. After all, that is all I hope it does. As a Zimbabwean woman I believe that I must share my perspective. This is why I wrote Bhindy “Her African Dream,” an unapologetic narration of the un-delved and often complex stories of the African as cross-cultural contexts collide and show how different but similar we are in the global village we live in. Bhindy goes beyond the simple archetype of the African, to provide unique insight on the global experiences and complex discourses that occur in the cultural, economical, political, social settings and melting pots we live in as we are bound together by meaning.
Interested in bringing this book to life? Support Chido and Letwina on Kickstarter: Check it out here!