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Mellisa is the Programmes Quality Manager for Restless Development Zimbabwe. As part of our International Women’s Day series, she writes about balancing her career and life as a mother.

They say a woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform. Being a woman is a journey packed with fulfilling life experiences along with enormous challenges that only a woman can handle.

I am no special woman, I consider myself lucky. I go by the name Mellisa and I am a leader with Restless Development Zimbabwe, one of the leading youth organisations in Zimbabwe. I have been with the organisation for three years and am currently the Programmes Quality Manager and member of the leadership team that makes strategic decisions for the hub. My role involves providing technical oversight on program design, implementation and monitoring & evaluation to ensure that all country programs are efficient and contribute to empowerment of young people.

Although the civil society sector in the country is like no other, with more and more women getting into leadership positions, a lot more still needs to be done to promote meaningful participation of women at all levels.

There are too many structural barriers within the society premised on cultural and traditional attitude that leave women vulnerable and mostly unable to fulfill their full potential.  Throughout my career stretching well over 10 years I have walked the long road, fighting to improve my capabilities and be recognised on merit.

The journey started back in the summer of 2004 when after completing my university studies, I started off as an intern with Africare Zimbabwe. I worked hard in various programmes holding different positions in monitoring and evaluation and eventually growing into leadership as project coordinator. In 2015 I left Africare and joined Restless Development where I am currently the Programmes Quality Manager.

In between, I got married and became a mother to my two sons. With my husband we have decided to raise them to be real men, encouraging self-respect and respect for girls and women in their lives and exposing them to roles that are normally perceived to be for girls.

Over the last six years, I have had to juggle the twin demands of motherhood and work. In our society, women are still expected to fulfill the traditional role of caring for children and taking care of household chores, basically running the household. My typical working day runs from sunrise ending late in the night when I go to bed consisting of eight hours of professional, paid work sandwiched between endless hours of household work. Therein lies the beauty and enigma of an African woman. I work hard to deliver on both fronts and to cap it all, I was awarded the prize for Best Employee in 2016!

This is about me as much as it is about millions of women in my country the majority of whom face insurmountable odds. Women in rural communities and low income urban communities struggle to get a decent education. Girls marry early, gender based violence is common place and the myriad bottlenecks that deprive women of a better life persist. They say that ‘’empowered women empower women.’’ I am trying to use my experiences and position to advocate for the rights of young women and girls.

My message to my counterparts is that disrespect and violation of women knows no class, colour or creed as witnessed in the #Metoo movement. Women and male leaders need to do a lot more to raise awareness on women’s rights at every opportunity.  Our work as Restless Development provides a wonderful opportunity to change the present and future by transforming attitudes of young people to promote a more just and equal society.

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