HomeBusiness DigestWOMEN OF SUBSTANCE - Commitment pays off for Chidzonga

WOMEN OF SUBSTANCE – Commitment pays off for Chidzonga

Roadwin Chirara

HER strong rural background became her inspiration to commit time and resources to assist the rural communities such as the one she grew up in. The absence of meaningful

development in Mhondoro and lack of committed parliamentarians to meet the needs of marginalised societies pushed her into active politics.

A holder of a PhD in Agriculture (2002) from the University of Wageningen (The Netherlands), Mavis Chidzonga (51), has achieved her dream of sitting in parliament.

A dedicated community leader, Chidzonga has managed to achieve what most women and men can only dream about.

From 1995-2000, she was the member of parliament (MP) for Mhondoro.

To realise her rural development dream, Chidzonga started Counterpart Zimbabwe, a trust dedicated to assisting rural communities through an integrated approach combining micro-finance with sub-components of HIV/Aids education and awareness in 1995.

Counterpart also caters for Aids orphans and organic agro-forestry enterprises to generate sustainable rural incomes that foster healthy communities and rural livelihoods.

“Our vision is to improve the standards of living for poor rural women and their families through enterprise development. We are also committed to increasing the capacity of grassroots institutions and development groups by promoting micro-credit and sustainable agricultural enterprises,” Chidzonga said.

“Our focus is food security and bio-diversity especially supporting the Forest Garden concept,” she said.

Counterpart, which networks with other development agencies and organisations with similar objectives, is an affiliate of Counterpart International and the Australian Foundation for the people of Asia and the Pacific.

Donors who bankroll the projects include The Mcknight Foundation, Australian Aid and African Development Foundation.

Through Counterpart, Chidzonga has helped communities establish dairy projects and break into tobacco and paprika farming.

Membership of the dairy project has grown from 25 to 350 while that for tobacco growing has grown to 500 from five when it was launched 10 years ago.

Counterpart has to date distributed almost $500 million through various projects being undertaken in Mhondoro alone.

Also included on Chidzonga’s impressive curriculum vitae is her involvement in politics.

She cut her political milk teeth in 1973 in the UK where her role was raising funds for the freedom fighters as secretary of UK and Western Europe district, a post she held for seven years.

Between 1980 and 1990 Chidzonga served as secretary for Harare Central and Greendale districts. From 1990 to 2000, Chidzonga served in the Mashonaland West Zanu PF province as first secretary for health and then secretary for administration.

The passion to rise on the political ladder saw the energetic Chidzonga landing the MP seat for Mhondoro constituency in 1995 which she says was an eye opener.

“I really learnt a lot, especially when I was the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on parastatals,” Chidzonga said.

Chidzonga is the national secretary for legal affairs and women’s rights in the Zanu PF Women’s League and a member of Zanu PFs central committee.

Born and raised in rural Mhondoro with all the challenges that faced the girl-child in a traditional setting, she enrolled as a nurse before embarking on a sojourn to the UK for a degree in geography (1980) in Cheltingham.

A former teacher, Chidzonga was the brains behind the setting up of Kaguvi and Mount Hampden training centres.

Chidzonga also holds a Masters degree in Rural Social Development from the UK University of Reading (1986) and a University of Zimbabwe diploma in Adult Education (1985).

Chidzonga has sat on the boards of the Cold Storage Company and Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco).

She is also a council member for the University of Zimbabwe, and has been a member of organisations such as the Women’s Multi-Million Roundtable, Zimbabwe Women in Politics, Zimbabwe Women’s Resources Centre Network, Bio-diversity Network in Southern Africa and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association amongst others.

Married to Midion, the couple has three children – Mudiwa, Tinodiwa and Anodiwa.

Chidzonga believes that she is parliamentary material and hopes to bounce back in the March 2005 election. But first she has to deal with the Zanu PF primary election set for late this year.

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