Empowering women runs in Sally’s blood

Ruth Butaumocho Gender Editor
The world is slowly warming up to gendered leadership where young women are taking up active roles in the affairs of their countries. Regardless of education status, these game changers and ceiling crashers are claiming their space in economic, social and political spheres by nurturing and

encouraging other women to position themselves for power.

Zimbabwean women have not been left out in this new thinking.

Ms Sally Dura is one such young Zimbabwean woman determined to change the face of leadership in Zimbabwe by empowering women to claim their space in various organisations.

She is the national co-ordinator for the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, a forum where women meet to engage in collective activism on issues affecting women and girls in the country.

At 33, she becomes the youngest national co-ordinator to steward the umbrella body, which over the years has been led by older women, but of various dispensations.

“I have got respect for leadership,” she says.

“It has made me who I am, and I have been a leader throughout my academic and professional life and it comes naturally,” she added in an interview recently.

For someone who wanted to be no more than a teacher while growing up, Sally’s feat in leadership position has transcended beyond her expectations.

From holding a student representative union post while at university, she has held several presidential positions in several organisations, unions and has chaired several meetings nationally and internationally, further buttressing her self-made leadership skills.

“I love what I am doing and there is no better way of claiming your space and making a difference in your community than being in leadership,” said Sally.

Her passion for making a difference in youth and women’s lives has seen her stewarding different organisations in leading roles for more than a decade now.

In 2009 she was appointed a member of the Women’s Democracy Network, an international network, whose objective is to mentor and train women in leadership, while affording them an opportunity to share their expertise with the female populace from a diverse backgrounds across the globe.

As a result of the appointment she volunteered to lead and mentor women, a role she diligently executed, leaving a trail of success in South Sudan, Darfur, Kenya and Nigeria where she superintended over women’s issues.

Soon after her term ended, Sally found herself at the helm of the Youth Forum Zimbabwe as a national chairperson from 2012 to 2014, a role which earned her more enemies than friends.

“There was an outcry from some sections of the youth forum who did not want to be governed by what they termed ‘petticoat government’. It must have been shocking on their part, but I did not budge in the execution of my duties for the rest of my two-year term,” she recalls, without a trace of remorse.

For the few years that she was at the helm of these organisations, Sally showed great potential in advancing women’s cause, scoring high on the leadership chart.

It therefore did not come as a surprise to those around her when she was elected the chapter chairperson for Harare for the Women’s Coalition in 2014.

She believes her disadvantaged childhood nurtured some of the leadership skills that she boasts today.

“Growing up with a single mother, life was tough and we had to work hard for everything.”

That included arduously walking 18km everyday to Rumizha Chitenderano Secondary School in Masvingo.

With no outside influence to change one’s mind, Sally wanted to be teacher and emulate her dames at school who appeared knowledgeable and empowered in the whole community.

However, her vision changed dramatically after spending a day watching TV at Mupandawana Growth Point, Gutu, where her mother was a supermarket manager.

“It was my first day to watch TV, my vision was altered. That day I realised the importance of power in whatever sphere, and I resolved that I had to be part of that,” she said.

Even her academic aspirations that had been waning due to peer pressure changed, after Sally realised that education would be the only key in unlocking opportunities that lay ahead.

She knew her academic achievements would put a smile on her mother who had to endure unsavoury comments and stereotype-comments for being single, in a community, where marriage was viewed as the ultimate goal for any woman.

“All those issues inspired me to excel in school. I didn’t wasn’t to disappoint and I wanted to make sure that my academic life was in order, so that I could pursue anything,” said Sally.

After her A-Levels she enrolled with the Midlands State University for a degree in History and Development Studies and later joined the Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU) soon after completing her studies.

By 2005, aged 23, Sally had already started her journey towards championing gender equality while with WIPSU, as a research officer.

It was while she was working for WIPSU that her passion to join the echelons of leadership in pursuance of attaining power in any sphere was re-envigorated through interacting with women in politics coming from diverse backgrounds.

Sally says her interaction with the female legislators brought her close to reality on the role that one has to play in leadership.

“I realised that everyone has a responsibility to take up a leadership role in whatever sphere they are operating from and add value to the well-being of their own people or community.

“Taking a cue from my Girl Guides oath, I realised that I had a responsibility to serve my country and its people, to do the best I can in maintaining the national sovereignty at no costs, should duty call.”

Sally says that oath, she took decades ago, when she was merely a child barely in her teens, is one of her guiding principles, which has shaped her ideologies, and ultimately guides her in her leadership roles.

“The country’s leadership embraces young leaders who have innovative ideas to share and are prepared to work for the good of the country. As a young Zimbabwean, I am playing my part, something that the youths should emulate.”

“What I am is a result of concerted efforts from women around me, workmates, women in the movements, friends and relatives who mentored and held my hand, after realising my passion to lead,” said Sally.

With the support from her husband, Mandlenkosi Ncube whom she describes as her mentor, friend and partner, she believes that the sky is the limit.

Sally is a holder of a Master of Science in Development Studies degree (Merit) with the Women’s University in Africa, Bachelor of Arts (Hons) History and Development Studies (2.2) with Midlands State University, Diploma in Project Planning and Management (Credit) with Christian College of Southern Africa and Diploma in Public Relations with the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations. Sally has over 10 years’ experience in community training on gender, HIV/AIDS, women and youth rights.

Always focused on women’s empowerment, in September 2013, Sally founded the Sally Women’s Institute (SWI), a non- profit organisation that empowers women with leadership skills through research, mobilisation, recruitment, training, coaching, mentorship, lobbying, advocacy and facilitating social, economic and political leadership support system.

Looking on this year’s African Union theme, which is dedicated to the rights of women, Sally feels it would naturally be part of her mandate to ensure that the country leads other nations in empowering women.

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