Diakonia - People change the world
When Glanis from Zimbabwe grew up, no one expected that it would become anything of her, since she was a girl. But Glanis's determination and will to make a difference have made people change their minds. Photo: Carita Andersson

Glanis's determination changes young women's lives

Glanis Changachirere is a passionate change maker who is working courageously alongside others so that people living in poverty can gain power over their own lives.

11/5/2013 Publisher: Magdalena Ackeberg

No expectations of women

Glanis Changachirere from Zimbabwe comes from a poor family of agricultural workers. During her studies, she had to carry wood and water for several kilometres and cook food for her younger siblings. No one expected that she or any other girl would study at a higher level, or that they as adults would return and tell people that girls are worth the same as boys, and women the same as men.

Had to pay for her studies

When Glanis grew older, she began to challenge the political system, which is dangerous in a country like Zimbabwe. But the culture was also against her. Men have more say. And it was natural for Glanis's brothers to continue their studies – despite the fact that Glanis was better in school than they were. After all, Glanis was a girl.

Instead, she was forced to struggle her way through university by earning money in her free time to support herself. She was also arrested several times for her work for young people's rights.

"After university I worked for an organization that aims to give young people greater influence, but the focus was more on men than women. That’s why I decided to start my own organization." 

Emphasis on participation of young women

And that's just what she did. Today, Glanis is 29 years old and proud of the organization that she started a few years ago: the Institute for Young Women Development in Bindura, IYWD. IYWD works to ensure that young women are able to participate in society and strengthen each other through various activities.

Through IYWD, young girls learn to make their own sanitary protection, as well as talking to their parents about their rights. The slightly older women meet to sew school uniforms for their children and talk about other issues to empower each other. These are two examples of how to reach young women without saying exactly what the groups are about.

"I want to help women develop their individual capacity so that they can live independent lives," says Glanis about IYWD.

Income crucial to independence

In Zimbabwe, it can be dangerous to say what you think, and in order to hold meetings for more than three people, you have to apply for a permit.

"Sometimes, the police come to our meetings and when they do, we have to be careful about what we say. On those occasions, we sew school uniforms," says Glanis.

Doing practical things can also provide the young women with an income, which is also important if they are to live independent lives.

"We want young women to take part in the development of their communities. We work in impoverished rural districts and in mining districts where many people have been made unemployed. The traditional leaders are 99 per cent men. We have made sure there are forums where they can meet the young women, who can then make their voices heard," says Glanis.

People count on Glanis

When Glanis began her fight for women's rights, her parents were worried and afraid of what would happen to her. But today they are proud of her, and Glanis feels that what she is doing is important and makes a difference.

"I am now someone who people count on," she concludes.