Stepping Out of my Comfort Zone: A Woman’s Journey to the Top

Photo provided by Beauty Kujinga

My name is Mrs Beauty Kujinga, née Nhidza. I am a 35-year-old lady from the Gutu rural area, and I am married to a lovely husband, and we are blessed with one boy and two girls. I grew up in Gutu, and my mother passed away when I was only 10 years old. My father remarried a very kind lady whom I don’t see as a stepmother but my real mother. I am a site manager at a service station and also a voluntary patron for Ignite Afrique, which is a charity organization.

Where did I start?

I started working as a housemaid at the age of 19, and the family I was working for was very nice, and they treated me like their own daughter. They encouraged me to read books. It was really hard for me because this was my first time away from my family, and time management was a bit challenging because I was [immature]. My wish was to make my father very happy, so every month end I would send him money and buy some groceries, but he always told me that I should continue with my education.

I joined Spar in 2011 as a cleaner, and I got promoted within a month to be a till operator. I then approached my manager and requested to be shifted to work at a service station as a kiosk cashier, which I did for three months. Then I was promoted to a pump attendant and then promoted again to an assistant supervisor. I got promoted again to be a supervisor, and when our company opened a new branch, I was promoted again to be a site manager.

Challenges I face

The challenge I face is to balance work and family. I have to be present and focus on what is in front of me, be it a conversation with my kids or husband or working on a business case. I am glad that I can manage all that and make my children happy.

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I often get asked about how I deal with that issue. I respond that the barriers for women in business are much [fewer] today than 10 years ago. In business, you set the tone by being a competent professional. So you establish yourself as someone qualified to get the job done, and let that speak for itself. I truly believe women are natural leaders and entrepreneurs. So grow your business based on your skill and your brain! As women, we have a lot of both.

I have been called a “b**ch” more than once by men who think the answers I give to their questions were inadequate. I am sure that it will happen again. As a woman in a man’s industry, I have learned so much about myself over the past years, and I have learnt a lot about men and their behaviour.

Charity work

The aim of Ignite Afrique is to reduce school absences among girls by providing sanitary towels to girls in need. Let me say that too often, adolescent girls face intersecting disadvantages because of their age, gender, ethnic background, sexual identity, religious affiliation, income, disability, among other compounded factors. I have seen pictures [evoking] images of girls in different situations that live with disadvantages, even with crisis. The perception and reality of vulnerability arising out of these multiple [intersections] really creates that context of discrimination and differentiated impact of crisis.

Growing up in the rural areas taught me that we must be outraged about the disadvantages that girls still experience. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provided us with 17 development goals, and one of them is about “achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls” in all circumstances, including in crisis and humanitarian situations.

I would also like to encourage our partners in the private sector to join us in our quest to make a difference in the lives of young girls and women who are deprived and cannot afford sanitary towels by simply donating a pad. So far, we have donated pads to Copota School for the Blind in Zimuto, Vana Child Care (UAA Orphanage, Chivhu). Trainings were done in Mwenezi for reusable pads.

Together, let us create a caring society that loves its women and children.

What have you noticed that shows you have grown in a certain area?

When I joined Spar, I only had O-levels and I managed to get a certificate in human resources [and an] honours degree in records and archives management. Currently, I am studying for a masters in strategic management.

Handling pressure is also one thing that showed me that I have grown because I can work under pressure with minimum supervision.

What have you grown into?

I am now more into women empowerment. I enjoy sharing my story with other ladies and girls so as to inspire them that it does not matter even if you grew up in the rural areas. As long as you know what you want, you can achieve it and change your story for the better. I am now a fearless someone, and I don’t look down upon myself.

What is your advice to other women who doubt their capability?

Take advantage of all opportunities and step out of your comfort zone. And my father’s advice that ‘God gave you a mouth; use it to your advantage’ has served me a lot.

The wisest advice I ever got from my loving husband was to build my career on what I want, not what others want for me. This means acknowledging that while you may not be the best at something, you can still reach your goals if you possess the passion and drive. That also means taking care of the brand. Exercising and maintaining a healthy diet are essential to helping manage the stresses of a high-profile position.

The best advice I can give can be summed up in one word: read. Reading is mental fitness. It is a workout for your brain. You just cannot get enough intelligent information without a steady diet of written articles, commentary, and most importantly, books. Readers do better in school, earn more money, are better citizens, have happier personal lives, and are more actively engaged in the world around us. Books get our minds out there into the world of ideas, and where our brains go, our bodies follow.

My last advice is simple. If you are uncomfortable with something, voice your opinion. Do not be afraid that the office is male-dominated. You work hard and have every right to speak up. Stand up for yourself, and demand respect (in a professional way, of course).

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