Over the past 20 years, Zimbabweans have faced a range of challenges, some expected, most not, as our country grapples with what it takes to become a functional independent state. We know of these challenges all too well – political, social, economic and cultural – one or more of which have led each and every one of us into unchartered territory, literally and figuratively. But what has been remarkable is that in spite of all this tumultuous change, in whatever corner of the globe we find ourselves, our resilience and work ethic has not in any way diminished; neither has our drive to overcome adversities and to strive to be the best version of ourselves.
It’s on this background that Jules Jonathan co-founded the Zimbabwean International Women’s Awards – ZIWA – with friend Moud Goba. Here’s what Jules says about how it all started:
‘In 2013, I attended an all-women’s Christmas party in Birmingham (UK), and at that party, awards were being given out to women who had been helping others, supporting others, doing amazing things in the community. They were doing these wonderful things behind the scenes and over and above their day jobs. Whilst I was watching this, it dawned on me that there are actually unsung heroines amongst us; even with all that was going on with our country, these women just kept on moving forward.
So what did I do? Well, when I got home the following day, on a Sunday, the first thing I did was call my friend Nixx (MoudGoba). I said to her“Nixx, yesterday, at this party, these women were awarding each other. I think this is what is lacking in our own community – something that celebrates women; the other awards ceremonies that we have are male dominated, and the women who are awarded tend to be those that are in the public eye. But what about those women that we don’t see doing amazing stuff? Why can’t we do something for them?”
She thought it was a great idea and she suggested we do something about it. We started researchingwomen of Zimbabwean origin excelling in a range of fields. We found so many, most of whom we had never heard of. We also approached other women we knew about the idea, all of whom were really supportive. They gave us pointers and highlighted even more women doing great things. This really motivated us and a month later, in January 2014, ZIWA was born.’
The first awards ceremony was held 5 months later in June 2014 at the Burlington Hotel in Birmingham, UK. The city which is close to the centre of England was chosen over the capital, London, to make it as accessible as possible to as many as possible. The event was organised by Jules and Nixx – alone. Over 300 men and women attended, itself an affirmation that a platform like this was much needed in our society. The atmosphere was sparkling and the evening inspirational as 23 awards -17 individual, 5 group and 1 lifetime achievement – were handed out; this was from a pool of 91 nominations.
The feedback was largely positive and the criticism hugely constructive. Jules and Nixx were encouraged by this and immediately set out to take the next instalment, ZIWA2015, up a notch. The two had essentially brought a dream to life in 6 short months – so with 12 months at their disposal, there were no limits as to what they could achieve.
What Jules and Nixx didn’t realise is that their drive, focus and commitment to create such a platform had inspired many, and demonstrated that wherever and in whatever situation we find ourselves as Zimbabweans, we remain proud of our origins, committed to excellence and increasingly realise the importance of supporting one another.
Next: The ZIWA story continues…
BY: Shingai Mushayabasa and Rhoda Molife