Petronella Munhenzva Foundation

If you want to learn more about me, you’re in the right place.

Who is Petronella Munhenzva?

Petronella Munhenzva is a Research Consultant, Speaker and Author. She recently finished her Mphil graduate studies at Oxford University. She also holds Honours and Masters degrees from the University of Zimbabwe. She is also serving as one of the Coordinators for the Africa Working Group with (Young Scholars Initiative (YSI). With YSI, she has organised conferences in Los Angeles (USA), Washington DC (USA), Bologna (Italy), Ibadan (Nigeria), Edinburgh (Scotland) among many others. She is also an academic writer with publications in notable journals as well as chapter contributions to book projects. She is also the Co-Founder of APETZiM; a Zimbabwean woman-led research firm committed to helping organisations and individuals make important business decisions through the use and analysis of actionable research astuteness. Her recent work is the book FROM GOKWE TO OXFORD: THE GIRL WHO DARED. The book follows her life journey from the unlikely rural area of Gokwe (Zimbabwe), where few people graduate from any university, let alone the University of Oxford. She tells her story to empower thousands and thousands of girls living like her to believe in their dreams and to fight for their goals. Her presence in Oxford made her realise how society had placed glass ceilings on success because, even though she was an insider, she was also an outsider. She was frequently asked questions such as ‘How did you get to Oxford straight from Africa?’ These were supposedly perceived as compliments, but all they did was alienate her and make her feel like she didn’t belong. Having walked through this journey, she decided to write her book and share her story and tell every girl/boy child growing in any place not deemed fancy enough, or facing any challenges that make them doubt themselves that it is going to be okay.

What is the Petronella

Munhenzva Foundation?

The Munyaradzi Education Foundation is a foundation set up up to empower young people in rural Africa starting with rural Zimbabwe. When I was still studying at Oxford in 2020, in December of that year, I went back home to Zimbabwe. While I was there, I went to Gokwe, where I was born and spent the first 18 years of my life. I went to every school where I had learned, sat in the chairs I had sat in, and spoke with the teachers who had once taught me.Going back there made me appreciate the journey I had been on. Every teacher I spoke with at every school I visited said, “You should come back when the schools are open; the kids would love to meet you and hear from you; they could use the motivation.”I have decided to hold as many hands as I can in Gokwe and actively become the change I want to see in the place. This project speaks to me on a deeply personal level. I am approaching the Munyaradzi Education foundation from a position of: What would I have needed growing up in Gokwe? I have been that girl walking 5 kilometres to school. I have been that girl sitting in a grass-chipped classroom without benches or a proper roof. I have always been that girl who had to share a textbook with 9 other students to read a passage for a test because the whole class had 4. If we did not have to share it among the 10 of us, I would have watched my teacher write down the entire passage on the chalkboard so that we could all read it together. Because the school couldn’t aord a broom, I carried one to school to clean the Blair toilet.Because we didn’t have floor wax, I had to clean the classroom with muchacha to get a nice greenish finish.I have been her and I AM HER. My story is her story. So, when I am establishing this foundation, I am not doing it from a position of comfort and pity. I am doing it from a position of holding as many hands in Gokwe as I can. 7-year-old me didn’t have someone come to her and say ‘Hey, I was like you 19 years ago and now I am in Oxford.’ ‘It gets better!’But every little girl in Gokwe has that right now and, together, we can too.

Our Goals

Empowering young people in rural Africa To collaborate with existing organisations and expand the network for the empowerment of young people.

Who we are for?

Every child in Africa lives in rural areas.Our current focus is on young people in rural Zimbabwe, particularly in Gokwe.

Mission statement

To empower young people in rural Africae, enhancing and supporting existing projects. With respect to equality and diversity.

The Foundation

Become a supporter

Suggested Initiatives

1. Inspirational Tours

One thing that is crucial in the life of children living in disadvantaged positions is inspiration. Inspiration is essential because the world they live in does not offer them light at the end of the tunnel. Waking up each day and working in the fields, going to fetch water and doing everything around the home before walking kilometres to school is not inspiring. Then getting to school tired and exhausted without having done the homework assigned because you got home late the previous night making you a target of the teacher’ scorn and ridicule further dampens the spirit. This is the story of most girls that the DREAM project is working with and I strongly believe that before anything else is given to them they need to be offered inspiration, motivation and affirmation from someone who knows exactly what it is they are going through. I think this has to be the starting point. Talks where they are told, hey! I was you a few years ago and today I am here to tell you that you are more than your current situation, you are more than your circumstances and you are more than your troubles. You need to believe in yourself enough to fight for that future that I see for you.

2. Career Guidance Tours

From the moment I started grade one until I finished my primary and my secondary years, I never had a career guidance session. No one told me the options on who I could become…the options were very limited. I grew up seeing teachers, policemen, nurses and farmers. These are awesome professions if they are part of options not when they are the prescribed future. Professional people in sports, finance, arts, teaching, law, fashion, medicine among many others should be rallied together and go to schools and centres and offer these girls options on who they can become. The girls need to know that their future is bright with or without the number of subjects required and that they are more than their academic acumen they can become sportspeople or be involved in fashion and other technical workshops. When I got to high school and read a copy of the book “THERE IS ROOM AT THE TOP…” a small book part of a series that chronicled the lives of women that had done extraordinary things, I developed a clear sense of who I wanted to become: A GIRL WHO WAS GOING TO DO SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY. For this reason, I am fully convicted that career guidance tours are critical and an avenue for us to work together.

3. Confidence and Self-esteem building Workshops

What gives the girl anywhere in this world the power to say no to sexual relationships that compromise her studying is the confidence in her future and self-esteem that reminds her that she is valuable. Sometimes we develop sexual relations that hurt us with certain people because we need validation and affirmation because we need someone to make us feel that we are beautiful and valuable. The person that then gives us an illusion of this appreciation and affirmation is someone detrimental to our future and this is an issue that has to be addressed. A girl might have all the textbooks, all the stationery needed and the new uniforms but if she doesn’t have self-esteem she will fall prey. This is the reason why girls need to be taught their intrinsic value and their worth in this world. The biggest challenge with this is that self-esteem and confidence is a muscle that has to be developed every day. If not exercised it can be eroded and if not nurtured can be shattered. There are various interactive activities, games and affirmations essential for this. I have developed a daily affirmation booklet that I have called “Dear African Child…” Where I write a love letter every day for the African child reminding her/him of his worth and npower.

4. Sex Education and Sexual Reproductive Rights Tours

I grew up in a rural area and a very conservative household. The subject of sex was taboo and this creates “a mystery to be explored” around the subject in a way that entraps the girl child. This calls for sex education workshops together with sexual reproductive rights talks that don’t make the girl child ashamed of her sexuality and changes in her body but equip her to deal with all of it positively.

5. Community Outreaches activities

One thing that I struggled with growing up that saw me contemplating ending it all was the feeling of irrelevance. Feeling that no one needed me or considered me worthy. This is the greatest challenge among young women and girls. I believe that one of the solutions to these challenges is community outreaches that may include activities such as litter picking, volunteering, and tours to women-led organisations. This is crucial in fostering a sense of usefulness and relevance in the girls about their position in society. If they feel needed, valued and appreciated it will build their self-esteem and strengthen their will to say no.

6. Writing Competitions with small prices:

These may include such as Essay writing, short stories, arts and crafts. One of the key confidence boosters is acknowledgement and appreciation of your efforts. If someone is celebrated they work hard on doing more.

7. Focus Group Discussions

One thing that I observed when I was growing up and when I was teaching in Gokwe is that many households are not conversational with their children. This creates an active barrier in how the girl child communicates her fears, joys, passions and experience. Group discussions just for conversation where platforms are created for the girls to be heard are essential.

8. If copies of the book can be bought for some of the girls

My book FROM GOKWE TO OXFORD: THE GIRL WHO DARED TO DREAM fully cognisant of the possibility of turning into a cliche is written by ‘one of them.’ The book details my early childhood years, the struggle of the absence of a proper foundational education base. Living with extended family and the implications on the resources, learning at more than 5 schools for primary education, most of which in Gokwe without any meaningful infrastructure, textbooks and kilometres away. My story is indeed my own but in it, the struggles resonate with the average girl growing up in rural Zimbabwe and rural Africa. I strongly believe that owning a copy would consolidate all the talks of self-esteem, self-confidence and all the other lessons we want to equip them with.

9. School Provisions

Identify students from each school to pay for school fees, school uniforms and stationery.

10. Sewing Projects

Sewing is a viable project because one of the most common practical subjects offered at O' level in Zimbabwe is Fashion and Fabrics. People rarely put these skills to use. A sewing project will keep girls in school while also giving them something to do. They can sew school uniforms at aordable prices for their communities. (One thing I remember vividly from growing up in Gokwe and returning to teach: there are so many students who come to school without uniforms or only part of them; perhaps the shirt or just the shorts.) Requirements for this: Sewing machines and other required sewing equipment, fabric, threads,

11. Sporting Projects

There are so many talented children in rural areas who never get the chance to shine because of a lack of access, opportunities, and recognition.

12. Sanitary products manufacturingrovisions

Sanitary products manufacturing