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Victoria Falls

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From Binga to Santa Fe

From Binga to Santa Fe

Matron Mweembe in front of her hand-made baskets
Matron Mweembe in front of her hand-made baskets
GINGER GREEN

Matron Mweembe is a girl aged 23 from Siachilaba in Binga District. Her mother died when she was three and she was raised by her grandmother.

The Ward Aids Action Committee supported her schooling, but lacked the resources to finance her school leavers’ exams. Mweembe sold her own goats to register for five subjects, but she passed only one. Mweembe earned a living making and selling basketware, a skill which she had learned from her grandmother. She became so proficient that she was the first from an income generating group to be exposed to outside marketing opportunities through the Ntengwe for Community Development programme at the Harare International Festival of Arts.

At HIFA her skills caught the eye of Cristina McCandless from the United States, who arranged for Mweembe to participate at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in 2010. The contacts created at HIFA had earned this determined young lady financial support for passport and visa fees, shipping and booth fees to expose her wares at an international level and perhaps create more opportunities for others like herself. But the story was not all smooth sailing.

Last year Mweembe was denied a visa to visit the United States on the basis that she was not married. A year later, the invitation to attend the Santa Fe market was still open, but meanwhile, as a result of the marketing of baskets last year, new contacts were found who had agreed to support Ntengwe in a number of projects, including Mweembe going back to school. Today, Mweembe attends Siachilaba Secondary School. “Going back to school has always been my desire and I would have done the same whether married or not and whether 67 or 100 years old,” she said.

Mweembe’s story can be used in the community to encourage other young women faced with challenges. This year, she travelled to America to the Santa Fe Folk Art Market and she is expected to lead the process of taking another community member next year.

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Victoria Falls

Read more from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 06, Sept 2011)