USA based woman calls on other women to rally to-gether and empower girls through puberty education through a journal titled “I Call On You Sis”. The journal was launched in Cincinnati, USA on 17 August 2019 and is now available on platforms such as Amazon.
HOM: Congratulations for deciding to help others and empower girls. Please introduce yourself and tell us your background.
ZDM: Thank you for such an honor, my name is Zvisinei Dzepasi Mamutse, I’m originally from Zimbabwe now based in Ohio Cincinnati. A mother of 3. Married to Honest Mamutse. I am a nurse practitioner by profession practising addiction medicine.
HOM: What made you take action?
ZDM: To carry forward teaching instilled of community service, that we are the change we want to see. It is important to still instil those values in our children. Losing two parents at a young age it is not the material things I remember, but the values that were instilled in us. In 2019, and soon 2020, we are linked at the touch of a button through advancement in technology, but we still have girls missing school because of a lack of ways to manage their periods, this is because menstruation has been viewed as taboo, a subject we can’t talk about and Vasikana Project aims to bring awareness to this subject and help with the eradication of these taboos. Vasikana Project is a non-profit organization empowering girls by providing puberty education and safe, dignified ways for young girls to manage their periods. We believe all girls can embrace who they are, define their future, and can change the world.
HOM: What is the inspiration behind the project?
ZDM: Vasikana Project inspiration is to carry our mothers legacy of empowering women, our mother Judith Mereki Dzepasi worked for an organization that shed light on family planning and empowered women to make decisions about their bodies. She rode her bike from one homestead to another, one village to another advocating for women, hence we wanted to carry her legacy and empower girls through puberty education.
HOM: Did you have that ‘aha’ moment or it was a gradual process to commit yourself to help others?
ZDM: As I listened to the stories I heard from my sisters coming from Zimbabwe about girls missing school, that is when I got the AHA moment that this was an area in which I could make a difference, bringing awareness to their plight.
HOM: What are some of your childhood memories that still impact or influence you today?
ZDM: My parents were community oriented, they were always helping one person or another by paying tuition. My father always stated it was no point just educating his children only he believed in raising up the whole community.
HOM: Please kindly explain the vision you have for the project? What do you want to achieve?
ZDM: Vasikana Project is aimed at bringing awareness to period poverty, safe and dignified ways to manage their periods, and to leave no girl behind with the publication of a puberty educational resource for schools in Zimbabwe.
HOM: The journal is an essential tool in your project and your vision. What is the inspiration behind the journal?
ZDM: The “I Call On You Sis” journal is a personal call woman to woman, sister to sister, to remind each other of how important our relationships are in renewing our strengths. As women we face so many struggles, miscarriages, divorce, abuse, loss, etc and sometimes it is those calls we make amongst ourselves that keep us moving forward. “I Call On You Sis” is also a reminder to us to be mindful of our responses when called upon. A simple “you can do it” will encourage someone to keep pushing towards their dreams.
HOM: Would please explain the journal and how it works?
ZDM: The journal can be used as a gift from one woman as a reminder of how important that women or sister is. It makes for a perfect Christmas or birth-day gift. It can also be used in therapy sessions as a conversation starter as it guides the person in dealing with certain situations as a woman. It encourages the reader to work through the issues they may not have resolved and jot down their thought process. When you purchase the journal, for yourself, or your Circle of Friends, or whomever you’d like to bless with an empowerment journal, the proceeds go directly to the publication and distribution of a Puberty Education Handbook for Girls.
HOM:What challenges have you faced balancing family, professional and philanthropic work?
ZDM: It is challenging balancing it all, but where there is a will there’s a way. I also have a very supportive husband, Honest who helps me a lot. Plus my village of sisters who are always just a phone call away.
HOM: How do you get the time and manage the time?
ZDM: I am fortunate that my job has a very flexible schedule, I work 3 days a week, which gives me 4 days off, allowing me time to do my philanthropy work as well as study part time toward my PhD in Nursing.
HOM: What help or assistance do you need from others? How do you get more people to get involved?
ZDM: The goal in 2020 is to publish the puberty educational resource and hopefully work with the Ministry of Education (NOT TO CHANGE THE SYLLABUS) but to place the book as a resource to be used in schools. People can help by purchasing the journal as proceeds go to the publication of the puberty educational resource. The more journals sold the more lives we will touch. I am also open to other women hosting I Call On You Sis events and inviting as many women to come over, bringing sanitary pads as we discuss the journal.
HOM: How did it go with implementing your project in Zimbabwe?
ZDM: The Vasikana Project was implemented in 2014 in Zimbabwe. From the visits we made to the schools, we felt that we needed to do more than just leave a packet of pads for a few months. We wanted to put an educational resource that generations of kids could refer to so that they can understand the body changes happening and also the puberty education resource will include a template for girls to create their own reusable pads.
HOM: If you had influence what laws would you put in place to support or protect girls in Zimbabwe?
ZDM: So many issues affect our girl child today, lack of puberty management and education is just a tip of the iceberg. There are other issue such as child marriages, early pregnancies, and empowering them to say no to sex. I would continue to ensure that there are laws put in place to end child marriage, creating programs on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health. Our goal with Vasikana Project is to put in place a trained person to go from school to school educating girls and distributing books, as well as teaching them how to create the reusable pad.
HOM: Going back to your childhood and the challenges that you faced, what is different about the challenges girls face today?
ZDM: One of the challenges I faced as far as menstruation goes is the fact that it was taboo and these are some of the aspects we are working on right now to ensure that young girls know that it is a natural process that happens and there is nothing to be scared about it. The economic climate is so different now, families are having to choose between buying one basic need or the other.
HOM: What role can boys and males play in your project?
ZDM: Boys too need to know that periods are natural, and educating boys and helping them understand will eliminate all the teasing and laughs that happen when a girl messes her uniform or dress. This will encourage more participation of activities.
HOM: Is there scope for collaboration with other organisations who provide similar projects?
ZDM: Absolutely we are open to collaboration, there is so much work to be done, and the more hands-on deck the more girls that can be helped.
HOM: What does the future hold for you and for your organisation and projects?
ZDM: To leave no girl behind in puberty education with the publication of the educational resource.
HOM: How are you embracing technologies to advance your cause and your projects?
ZDM: Because I am based in the USA technology allows me to stay connected, and build relationships with other women working to empower girls. We hope one day to create an app.
HOM: Any advice to girls in general?
ZDM: I would like young girls to strive to be the best version of themselves, and know that your life matters. Each and everyone has a purpose in life. Work towards finding your purpose and dream big.
HOM: Any advice to women in general?
ZDM: We have a responsibility to be the role model that we want our children to follow.
HOM: What advice do you have for fathers, especially those who have daughters?
ZDM: As girls, our first love is our dads and so dads have a responsibility to set the bar of what their daughters will look for in a man or future husband.