Girl children are often severely affected by economic challenges. In many instances, some parents opt to withdraw them from school in favour of boys, if ends cannot meet.
But the story of Miss Zimbabwe 2012 finalist Ruvimbo Katiyo is that of a fighter, a girl child who was able to transcend very difficult circumstances and turn them into opportunities. This inspired her to help other struggling girls to make it in life.
Narrating her ordeal to participants during the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child commemorations organised by Plan Zimbabwe in Harare, Ruvimbo told participants the difficulties she experienced while growing up encouraged her later in life to embark on community help projects to empower girl children.
She said she did not only use the Miss Zimbabwe platform to showcase her beauty, but it became an avenue that she later used to mentor impoverished girls from Epworth, Harare, and give them hope for life despite their challenges.
Using her maths and science knowledge, Katiyo said she was conducting extra lessons for under-privileged girls in Epworth.
“I was born in 1987 and raised by a single parent — my mother. I had two siblings who were boys,” said Katiyo.
“It was difficult for my mother to raise three children alone, but despite the challenges she faced, she put education first and made sure even though I was a girl, I competed at the same level with my brothers,” she said.
“If my brothers had an ‘A’ grade in any of the school subjects and I had a ‘B’, my mother asked me why. I had to compete with the boys and that is why even at ‘A’ level I studied Maths, Physics and Chemistry.”
She said after successfully passing ‘A’ Levels, the family failed to raise money for her to proceed to tertiary education.
“I had to wait for a long time before I enrolled for tertiary education. I could have decided to get married or have affairs, but I did not. Instead I decided to keep fighting until I achieved my dream of getting educated.”
Katiyo was lucky that she managed to secure a scholarship to undertake studies for a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in the United States.
“I told myself that after completing the course I would come back to Zimbabwe to give back to the community that nurtured me.
“That is why I came back to Zimbabwe last year and used the Miss Zimbabwe competitions as a platform to interact with underpriviledged girls and those that found themselves in the same situation as I experienced,” Katiyo said.
She said as a result, she launched a mentorship programme for girls in June this year, resulting in her meeting and interacting with a lot of girls from poor families.
“I realised as an individual there was a lot to do for the community. I engaged young girls and discussed with them the importance of education.
“A lot of girls are facing financial challenges, but I do not think in order for people to help them they necessarily need financial resources.
“I saw the mentoring programme as a platform to effect the kind of change I wanted to see in society. Let us look around us and see where we can effect change,” Katiyo said.
According to Katiyo, things that can make a difference include mentorship, vocational training programmes such as teaching girls how to sew, or even giving girls extra lessons in subjects they often find difficult like maths and sciences.