Vhiriri: Epitome of youth mentorship in career guidance
LOSING her mother who single-handedly raised her following a divorce, the then 12-year-old Emelda Vhiriri chose to be grounded in faith and focus more on who she wanted to become, not where she was or the unfortunate circumstances that had occurred in her life.
At the age of 25, having rubbed shoulders with a variety of youths from across the African continent through exchange programmes, Vhiriri founded an organisation called Cultiv8 Africa whose mandate is to cultivate the best out of young people to make them generational thinkers and leaders, and has trained and mentored more than 1000 youths in Zimbabwe.
“With Cultiv8 Africa, I would say we have made strides regionally at the African Union through participation in conversations that have led to young people being recognised as key players in realising the vision of the Continent and also in enforcing the need to harness the demographic dividend through investments in youths,” Vhiriri told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Even though our work has been limited due to lack of resources, we have been able to train and mentor over a thousand youths in career guidance, financial literacy and also leadership trainings with the assistance of different partners.
“Our hope is to scale up our work to cover youth access, juvenile reformation and generational sustainability, among other thematic areas.”
To date, the 27-year-old wears so many hats in leadership advancing women empowerment, facilitating development and pushing for gender equity.
She is also an acting director for an organisation called ROOTS which aims at being the one-stop information hub for adolescents and young people, focusing on Mashonaland Central. The organisation has made great impact under the leadership of the director and the ROOTS team.
Born in Harare in 1992, Vhiriri is the fifth born in a family of six consisting of five girls and a boy. She grew up surrounded by people who loved and supported her despite the fact that her parents divorced when she was young and was raised by her mother who untimely passed away in 2004.
“Along my journey, there were people around me to provide love, support, financial assistance and prayers. In all that, I realised that I wanted to live a life of birthing significance and to be remembered for cultivating lives,” she said.
“Growing up, I can say that I morphed just like a butterfly. I had stages where I thought I wanted to be in the medical field but that was not because of my passion but rather because my family felt that I would excel in that field.
“It was only when I was nineteen where I got the clear picture of who I was and wanted to become. I took a gap year which I spent doing missionary work in Kwazulu-Natal at Midlands Christian Centre and the activities we did included visiting the orphanage, feeding and clothing the vulnerable and also youth work at the church.
“It was at that point that I realised that I wanted to develop young people and assist them in become change makers who not only watch things happen but make them happen.”
Vhiriri added that as a young woman who was exposed to different environments, she picked up that youths need guidance and support; they needed someone to show them that they can become better than what their past says.
“In some of the work that I did over the years, volunteering mostly, I got to interact with young people who gave up on their dreams because they just did not know how to manoeuvre,” she said.
“My participation in conversations around Agenda 2063 at the African Union (AU) through the platform called Young African Thinker’s got me to realise that Africa is a beautiful continent in which its greatest resource are its people and because the youths are the majority, investing in them may mean a different story for the continent.
“My aim really is to inspire the youths to become that force which drives Africa’s development and get them to a place where they own and transform the continent and I am passionate about not only making impact in the nation but at African Union level in key decision-making.”
Vhiriri is currently the chairperson of the Young Women’s forum for the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) and co-chairs the Southern African Youth Forum (SAYoF) Zimbabwe, apart from being the founding director of Cultiv8 Africa and acting director of ROOTS.
Apart from developmental work, she is an author, transformational speaker and also ministers at Life and Liberty Churches in Zimbabwe.
“One of my missions is to lead women to a place where they see themselves as the invaluable women that they are and I talk more about this in my book ‘From One Invaluable Woman to Another,’” she said.
“Majority of women have painful stories that have led some to be trapped in the mire sands of low self-esteem, depression, emotional scars, among other things.
“Growing up with sisters and a mother who went through so much at various stages of their lives, I knew I wanted to contribute to a world that treats women fairly, free of violence against women in whatever form, a world that values their contribution and where they are allowed to fulfil their maximum potential.”
Vhiriri added that along the journey, one of her greatest highlights was being an award winner of the 2018 Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) in Zimbabwe.
She acknowledged that female leadership comes with a number of challenges as one has to work twice as hard because the society we are in wants women to ‘‘prove’’ their capacity which is not always the same when it comes to the treatment that men get.
“Another challenge I have encountered is lack of financial resources to push my work forward and I have been rising above this through alternative sources of income and diversifying the work I do so as to be able to support my passion,” she said.
“As a young woman, there also have been some knowledge gaps along the way which I have intentionally addressed through self-tutoring on different subjects related to my work and also through approaching mentors at various levels to hold my hand through it and to also assist with information that will ease the load.”
Academically, Vhiriri hold an Honours Degree in Psychology and a Masters in Developmental Studies with the Women’s University in Africa. She also sings at corporate events and private functions.