From humble girl to a powerful woman

HAZVINEYI   Chiota-Rukande is a game changer who wears many hats — model, lawyer, and accountant.

The multi-talented go-getter, who exudes radiant energy and charisma, has soared to the top by digging deep when things get hard and mastering the art of defying the odds. 

A case in point was in 2016 when Chiota-Rukande, who was a 30-year-old mother of two at the time, surprised all and sundry by beating 10 other younger finalists to be crowned Black Opal Face of Zimbabwe. Winning the coveted pageant earned the enterprising woman US$8 000.

“I was so happy when I won because I felt like I had broken the barriers in the modelling industry because I was not skinny and also I was the only married person. I remember I used the money I won to pay my fees for law school,” she told the Daily News on Sunday recently.

Given the achievements she has made, it is hard to believe that she became a mother at a very young age.

“It was a very difficult time; a very low point in my life.  I had a baby aged just 18 years and had to experience the challenges that come with motherhood at such a young age,” she said. Chiota-Rukande is determined to empower other women to enable them to rise up from challenging situations and embrace second chances.

“My story is that of resilience, empowerment and embracing second chances. Having a baby at 18 years did not derail my ambitions. I am determined to use my past experiences and new skills to empower young girls through guidance and counselling,” she told the Daily News on Sunday.

As part of her efforts to empower fellow women, she has partnered with Zandile Matiwaza-Denga of Africa Grain & Seed (AGS), an African network empowering communities through Agribusiness and mining. 

“AGS has a buy back scheme under which AGS donates agricultural inputs, including seedlings of fruit trees, before buying back the produce.

“We want women to be entrepreneurs through farming projects. AGS gives the women farming implements, inputs, training and provides a market for them with a fixed market price where they can sell the produce. When they get their proceeds, they repay AGS and keep the profit

“AGS is continuing to fly high; they are now being showcased on Wall Street in New York, who would not want to be part of that kind of vision and success? I am proud to be associated, to be a part of and to contribute to the vision that AGS has for Zimbabwe, for Africa and for the world at large,” Chiota-Rukande said.

But why did she opt to empower women through agriculture?

“Women and land have always been married to success by destiny and instead of exploiting one another, let’s exploit the land for the benefit of humanity. Africa and its soil are rich enough to enrich the African majority which is also in line with the government’s Vision 2030,” she said.

The lawyer-cum-accountant is also involved in legal work which involves raising awareness on issues of gender-based violence. She shared a recent experience she had while helping a gender-based violence victim.

“I got a call from a woman who was being continuously physically abused by her husband who also happened to be a police officer. I had to reach out to Msasa Project to ensure she was assisted and I also helped her to obtain a protection order,” she said.

Chiota-Rukande believes she has accomplished only a fraction of what she can do.

“From a humble girl who once fell at so many different points in my life, to a powerful woman who still falls sometimes, I get up every day encouraged by the work of so many beautiful, powerful and courageous women. This motivates me to do more and exceed expectations and break barriers. I want people to know that a woman is resilient be it young or old. When we fall we always get up,”’ she said.

by Dionne Kanyowa