By Helen Venganai
#19th woman I celebrating is Eke Chifamba who has a background in banking and IT.
This is another young woman who is a community champion and has done amazing work since she started her organisation Shamwari Yemwanasikana (SYS) in 2014.
The focus of the organisation is to address the concerns of the girl child and protect her from all the threats that may potentially destroy her dreams, hopes and full development.
Through SYS, Eke has helped thousands of girls in need in Zimbabwe—girls who are victims of rape and other abuse, girls who are poor, girls who need counselling or education or access to the justice system or escape from child marriages. SYS programs offer assistance to victims of rape and abuse including psychological support, legal support, referrals to shelters, and transportation to police stations, courts, and hospitals.
Eke has spearheaded the Child Marriages Amplifying Community Voices training to identify and support community champions for ending child marriages.
SYS also works with boys and men, and has established “men and boys’ forums” in which males of all ages are educated about protecting girls and ending child marriages.
Her work sometimes attracts hostility from traditionalists and some church elders who view her work as a threat to traditional norms. However, this has not deterred her from investing in positively shaping the future of girls.
Thousands of girls belong to clubs sponsored by SYS that offer programs promoting leadership skills, career guidance, and confidence building. She runs an initiative named Ladder to Leadership where she facilitates mentorship opportunities as well as networking platforms for current and future female leaders. The program has resulted in girls taking up leadership positions in platforms such as Student Representative Councils which are often dominated by males.
Currently, Eke through her organisation are constructing a Girl Child Rehabilitation and Empowerment One Stop Centre. She has also launched a campaign to provide sanitary pads to disadvantaged girls in the country. Even during Covid-19 lockdown, she has made sure sanitary pads are distributed to girls to ensure there is no period poverty.
Due to her outstanding work, Eke has become a woman of awards. She has been awarded for being among the Ten Outstanding Young People in Zimbabwe and has received 3 PROWEB Women Achievers Awards. She has also featured in a documentary of 100 Great Zimbabweans.
Added to that, she was also named second out of 10 by Health Times Zimbabwe for championing sexual and reproductive health rights.
Ekenia also attended the Award Ceremony for Outstanding Men and Women Fighting for Children’s Rights in Sweden and was awarded for placing the child in the centre at the World`s Children`s Prize Foundation in 2014. In 2017 she was nominated amongst the 100 Great Zimbabweans and awarded for her efforts in Civil Activism.
For her work against child marriage, Eke was nominated as a Change maker by Girls Not Brides International.
In 2018, she was nominated and featured by PAW (Phenomenal African Women) Foundation in September as one of the 10 Phenomenal African Women touching lives in communities. She was also appointed Anti-Domestic Violence Councillor in 2018.
She was Chairperson for Child Rights Committee under the umbrella body for Non-governmental organisations. Eke was awarded a Social Entrepreneur award by the National Chamber of Commerce-Women’s Desk at the WECA Awards held in 2018.
In 2019 she got appointed to the Civicus Membership Advisory Group in 2019. She also received the Oustanding Women Rights Defender Award from the ZCNews 2020 Awards. A few days ago, Eke was named as one of the iconic Women of the last decade in Zimbabwe by Nyaradzo Group.
Eke is a speaker of note who has participated in multiple local, regional and international platforms. As far back as 2012, Eke was a guest speaker at the 2nd Women’s Conference on Shelters in the United States of America.
In 2018 she was a speaker at the 3rd World Conference of Women’s Shelters in the Netherlands on “Community Based Approach to Sexual Violence”. Eke has also sat on the Tugwi Trust Zimbabwe Board.
There is so much I can write about this phenomenal woman, so this is just a summary. One thing I admire about Eke is how welcoming she is to people. There are people who don’t want to share knowledge and information because of the fear that the other person will also grow and do better.
Eke is not like that. Her organisation has participated in some of my lectures sharing about their work with my students.
I salute her for being selfless and champion of women empowerment.