The economic situation in most countries is forcing many parents to concentrate mainly on making sure their children are fed and sheltered. The end result is they overlook other aspects of a child’s life that need attention like psychosocial support and guidance.
Tadzi Madzima was raised by a single mother who was multitasking and had a lot on her plate. Tadzi thought opening up to her mother and seeking advice and direction would be like adding more weight to the heavy burden she already had.
By not telling her mother about her teenage concerns, Tadzi thought she was being helpful, but it led her to a lot of crisis and confusion when she was young. She has now established a one-stop centre to help youths in similar situations to get guidance and mentorship. Here is her story:
“I was born in Harare and grew up in Braeside. I am the youngest in a family of three. I grew up in a single parent household. My father died of diabetes when I was five years old and I grew up looking up to my mother. My mother was a seamstress and she was very good at what she did. She always had lots of customers and did all she could to make sure we had everything we needed. A single mother will do anything to make sure her children have everything they need.
“Being raised by a single parent has its own challenges. There were times when I needed someone to talk to but I could not go to my mother because she was always busy. I could see the long hours she was clocking as she was playing two roles. I always thought if I go to her and tell her about the challenges I was facing as a teenager, she would have seen them as trivial and I did not want to disturb her since her main focus was on providing for us.
“I lacked guidance. At school there was standardized career guidance. [You] either had to do arts, sciences or commercials for you to succeed. We were confined in a box. There was no in-depth guidance that could help someone who was clueless find a path that was unique to them. All this and voices from my friends, teachers and the pressure to make my mother proud led me to have a lot of confusion.
“I remember having conflicting thoughts. Internally, I was conflicted; I really wanted to make sure I chose a career that made my mother proud and not just a career I was passionate about. Externally, my teachers and friends were encouraging me to go for law and I was not convinced that was the path for me given my area of passion and the skills I had. I got into graphic design and started working for a number of advertising agencies for some years.
“At the same time, I was studying [for] a degree in international law and relations because I felt I needed to acquire a qualification. As much as I liked graphic design and the arts, it did not give me the fulfillment I desired. I felt an internal void since I am someone who loves to interact with others, provide inspiration and give back positively.
“I later became a communications expert and I am currently working as the Global Communications Manager and Partnership Manager for Reach for Change. I now have over twelve years’ experience working in communications, creating high-impact marketing campaigns for both corporate and nonprofit organizations.
“I started volunteering and became involved with the youth at my church and during that period of working with young people, it occurred to me that helping them discover their purpose was the work that I was passionate about.
“My experiences growing up coupled with my involvement with the youth at my church, were the driving forces behind IGNITE Youth Organization. Working with youth at church made me realize that there were many other young people who were going through a similar or worse situation than mine.
“I decided to do something about creating opportunities for young people to access career coaching and to receive mentorship that supports their overall personal growth and sets them up for success early. I realized that I wanted to expand the work I was doing with young people beyond my Church and impact young people across the country in schools, colleges, universities and the community at large. Thus, I formed IGNITE Youth Organization.
“Since its launch in 2018, IGNITE Youth has reached over 8,000 youths through its programs and events across Harare and Bulawayo. The organization focuses on equipping youth to create a vision and purpose for their lives, find meaningful careers, contribute positively to their communities and become a generation of African leaders.
“Through eight holistic Programs that focus on nurturing their talents, innovation, mentorship, and access to resources and opportunities, IGNITE Youth empowers participants to find their career. We have ‘Ignite Girls’ which currently focuses on empowering girls and encouraging them to pursue careers that are not restricted to gender stereotypes, like focusing on Food and Nutrition or Fashion and Fabrics due to stereotyping. We allow girls to make decisions not based on what is regarded as good for a man or woman.
“We also have the ‘Lifeline Program’ which focuses on mental health as well. We take an all-inclusive approach to youth development like I mentioned earlier on. You cannot help them grow if they have anxiety or depression. Mental health is very important and we have professional counselors and life coaches to help those going through tough times.
“The ‘Influencers Program’ is meant for young people who want to be entrepreneurs. A lot of youth want to get in to business but lack guidance. We do not help them with skills only. We help them identify if entrepreneurship is the right thing for them and if it is, which business they would be more successful in.
“Another program is the ‘Creativity Program’ meant for those who want to pursue arts, it’s about creative arts development and we have two roles there. Generally in this country there is a belief that if you get into the creative arts you will not be able to sustain yourself financially. We help by giving mentors that assist them in finding ways of getting income through arts.
“We also emphasize on young people giving back to their communities using their talent thereby making an impact in the society. Last year during the xenophobia attacks in South Africa we composed a song calling on unity and an end to violence. Our young creative put the song together advocating against xenophobia and tribalism. Encouraging youths to unite and desist from such attacks.
“As IGNITE we also have the ‘Hope Program’. This is the purpose centered part of our program and it’s all about giving back. We also open up young people’s eyes so that they can think of innovative ways to solve some of the global issues we are facing like climate change. We teach them to be problem solvers. They have done things like blood donation, community outreach, fundraising campaigns and of late COVID-19 response and solutions to the impact that it has had in the community.
“We are also advocating for the use of reusable or washable sanitary wear which is environmentally friendly and we also conduct clean up campaigns.
“Our ‘Sports Program’ focuses on supporting people in the sports sector. Like creative arts, sport is not seen as a lucrative. We help them find ways of making money through sport, you do not need to be in the field only for you to succeed, one can be a sports man, sell sports equipment, do talent management and scouting, or do fitness training. We also encourage general mental and physical wellbeing across all our programs.
“What’s more, we have the ‘Tech Program. We focus on how people can use technology to come up with solutions to social issues. We encourage girls as well to take part in this program and also to pursue Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
“Finally we have the ‘Mentorship Program’ which cuts across all programs where we link up or pair young people with mentors that best suit their needs. We are taking a deep dive in helping young people to customize their talent so that they can find a career that’s befitting them. We have local and international mentors.
“In 2018, I was selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow and spent six weeks at the University of Texas, Austin, studying business and entrepreneurship skills. So what we do now is we link the youth with former Mandela Washington fellows who mentor them.
“In 2019, IGNITE Youth was nominated in the EATOUT Movement Force4Good Awards in the Youth Category as an organization that is going an extra mile in helping prevent and fight social ills that affect youth.
“In 2020, IGNITE Youth Organization has been nominated as one of the outstanding youth organizations contributing to Arts, Culture and Youth Development. My vision is to impact over half a million youth by 2030. The organization is now aiming to grow its footprint into other cities in Zimbabwe, and establish its presence in other African countries.
“We also plan to help shape the education policy so that it provides better career guidance services to young people and take into consideration more the uniqueness of each student. Young people are welcome to join us, look for our website [http://www.igniteyouth.co.zw/] or follow us on social media.”
Tadzi is helping youths so that they have an impact in their society and is also taking it home by making sure her children are exposed at a young age.
“I am mother of two boys, one is eight and the other is four. My first son is autistic on the far spectrum (high-end). He is currently being homeschooled because of his condition but I make sure he has exposure to other activities like swimming, music and art. I try to provide him with many opportunities so that he is able to explore and see what is best for him.
“As parents, you should know that children are different so never try to compare them. Your children will never be good at the same thing. Do not expect all of them to be good in academics. Appreciate your child’s uniqueness and celebrate them individually. Do not make them feel like they are inadequate. Do not call your children discouraging names. Celebrate what they are good at and help them get better at that.
“Besides just putting food on the table you need to take an active interest in what is happening in your child’s life. What is their area of passion? What are they good at? You are the first identifier of talent when it comes to your child. It is your duty as a parent to fight and advocate for your child. In as much as we are busy, as parents we should find time to be with our children.
“We have cases of mental health and young people committing suicide due to depression because parents are not getting involved in what is happening to their children. Sit down and talk and not just provide food, school fees and shelter. Provide emotional support, direction, career guidance and mentorship. The teacher is there but the parent should take active action.”