Seeking to Break Barriers

By  Prisca Nyasha Dhlandhlara.
I am a 30 year old Zimbabwean woman. I am passionate about working with young men and women in both rural and urban areas in all aspects of development, from personal to community and national development. In 2013 I established a youth-oriented organisation called Youth Initiative for Community Empowerment Trust. My drive for starting this initiative was to change the status quo and ensure that young and female voices are not left out of the development discourse.
Although I had started putting the idea into motion, it lacked the coherence and “fine-tuning” that I felt it needed. As an answer to my prayers, I got into contact with Training for Transformation which helped me to first look deep within myself and envision how I wanted to impact the communities that I was going to work with. TfT helped create new horizons for me in the work that I do and has ignited new passion. I am currently working in a remote area of Zimbabwe, and the major focus of my work here is Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health. I work with approximately 4 500 young people, both in and out of school, between the ages of 10-24 years. My work also involves working with traditional leaders, school authorities, elected leaders and the adolescents themselves. The topic of adolescent sexual and reproductive health is generally frowned upon, especially considering the age of the beneficiaries as well as traditionally upheld community norms and values. My experience with TFT has helped make challenges that used to seem insurmountable become almost a ‘walk in the park’. For instance, it was extremely difficult to talk to community leaders, parents and guardians about issues concerning the realities of teenage pregnancies, child marriages, STIs and HIV. The barriers that were put up were made of steel and it almost seemed impossible to cross or break them. Equipped with skills and tools from TFT I have worked tirelessly with the community, in an area where mining is a major source of income, I have held hands with parents and guardians and have made strides in promoting behavior change. The knowledge I got from my engagement with TFT helped me to package the content of my work and to ensure that I do not engage the community to present a problem to them, but rather that the community members identify problems and come up with solutions.
Promoting behavior change has never been easy and I have learnt that each interaction with any individual or experience is a huge learning opportunity. I have continued to seize such opportunities to find out as much as possible about individuals and communities. This has made it easier to engage with them. With practical help from TFT I have learnt, I have lived and let live and I have grown. The adolescents I have worked with have continued to adopt some of the approaches we have used in our health talks and have in their own spaces (and mainly through song), claimed and packaged the information they obtained.
My experience with TFT has helped me not only professionally, but also in many aspects of my personal life. TFT helped me to question all aspects of my life and most importantly taught me to when to walk away from situations that hurt and oppressed me. I spoke up and spoke out, I broke the silence and I took action in pursuing my own happiness. I have the strong conviction now more than ever that keeping quiet and suffering inside takes away from the individual much more than it does from the perpetrator. I have come to appreciate that perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness yet become something beautiful. Thanks to TFT, I am no longer afraid to confront my past and make positive strides in moving on from it and not letting my past define me. Having always been a ‘borderline radical’, TFT has also taught me the importance of reflection and seeking to break barriers and go against the grain.
Looking at the work that I do and the impact that it has on the people that I continue to interact with, it is my hope that the TFT way of life becomes the norm and not the exception. Critical consciousness is essential in all development initiatives and is critical in bringing forth the communities that we dream of and envision.
One thing I know for sure is that despite the challenges and lessons learnt I am not alone in the journey towards transformation. The networks that surround me will continue to energize me and revitalize the movement and the work that I do. I have learnt that some people trust in words, while others trust in numbers and for others, they are guided by symbols. The journey I have taken this far has taught me to value my experiences and the experiences of those around me as they help me formulate new possibilities and new realities.