Widows for Change

I am Gracious Shirichena from Zimbabwe. I am a 49-year-old widow and a graduate of TfT Diploma 2014/15. I would like to give special thanks to the TfT staff for the good work, methodologies, effort and training which offered me so much in terms of learning and changed my way of thinking. After completing my studies at TFT I started thinking more deeply about the ways in which I could become a real change agent. I have started a charitable organization called “Widows for Change”, and we are in the process of registering this organisation.

Zimbabwean widows are faced by a number of challenges. There are no institutions of organizations that are in place for widows to get financial support and many suffer in poverty. It is not uncommon for relatives of the deceased take the property without facing any consequences and the majority of widows do not know their legal rights. Another area of challenge is the social stigma faced by widows. They are no longer considered as valuable role players in society and as a result many feel isolated and unaccepted. Without any co-ordinated structures giving moral support, many widows also lose hope and their self-esteem decreases.

Currently, I am working with widows who are under privileged and from poor backgrounds. I spend quality time with them discussing the challenges which they face. I organise workshops that identify ways to sustain lives, and train in craft work. Importantly, these workshops are also spaces to encourage each other, give each other hope and create a sense of belonging. Part of this is to encourage widows to not accept the verdict and stigma of those who say they will never amount to anything. We say “get up, stand up, take off your grave clothes and dare to live again!”

Personally, the learnings from TFT made me realize the potential in me, the energy and creativity that I held in me. I use to think that it was best to be employed by others, not realizing that not only was it possible for me to create a better employment opportunity for myself and for others, but that I had the ability and talent to create self-employment. Now I train widows in different skills such as recycling old magazines, calendars to make necklaces, bracelets, purses and earrings. I also train the women to do tie-and-dye and batiks.

In my community many widows are so grateful for the opportunity to use the skill of their hands be productive and make craft that they can sell. This allows them to buy food, clothing and pay school fees for their children. There are however, challenges which I face as I try to make my dream come true.

Lack of funds is the biggest challenge. This is so because without finances it is not easy to purchase raw materials or machines to keep the projects going. Therefore continuity in supply of products is hindered and becomes erratic. I am grateful though because the knowledge and skills that I gained from TFT gave me “the green light”, helping me to see how I needed to keep going and never give up. In March 2016 I and a group of widows that I work with hosted a group of tourists from Sweden.

We organized a braai, displayed some of the products we make and a performed a short drama as a code on the issues facing widows.

The code really touched the visitors. A week after they left I received a call from their leader that some members in the group were willing to assist us financially. I have sent a proposed budget to Sweden and am working hard to ensure my dream and vision will soon come true.

TFT helped me in a powerful way. The code made the visitors cry as they realized the challenges and reality faced by widows in Africa. The code acted as a driving force for them to feel the urge to help us to change the plight of widows. One of the visitors asked me where l got the skills and knowledge and I was proud to say at the TfT Grail Centre.

Widows themselves are demanding more of these workshops for it is important to be listened to and to be heard. To date l have conducted five workshops in my community, each attended by twelve widows, so reaching 60 women. l am planning to reach out to rural areas as well.

Before TFT l was so stressed and traumatized. I was also full of self-pity, had lost hope and was slowly dying. After TFT l gained so much enthusiasm, strength, love for self and others. TFT changed my way of thinking and l want to leave a legacy that will benefit the generations to come. Now I am able to identify where there is a need (including my own!) and how best to solve it.
In conclusion, l say “live in such a way that even if you die you will always be alive in the great memories of others”. I am forever grateful to the inspiration, wisdom and knowledge for TFT facilitators who have left a legacy to motivate our generation and many more to come, to find life’s purpose despite whatever difficulties stand in the way or how impossible the odds seem.I say: “Get your eye out of the rear view mirror and start celebrating life and the energy from the Creator to transform others and make this world a better place to live.”

I say: “Get your eye out of the rear view mirror and start celebrating life and the energy from the Creator to transform others and make this world a better place to live.”

– By Gracious Shirichena