To keep a perfectly balanced society there is need for creative and progressive coexistence between the old and the new. That relationship may not necessarily be harmonious but it sure must not be discordant. Zimbabwean women of valour have successfully created that synergy between the old and the new. In my previous diary I talked of Auxilia Chimusoro and today I will talk of a young woman whom I am 100% confident will keep the spirit of Auxilia Chimusoro alive. A young woman who has already done so much in her pretty short life to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and whom I am confident a few years from now will be the deserving recipient of the Auxilia Chimusoro Award.
Never mind she is my friend, but when my friend is also an inspirational person and no one seems to acknowledge that, if I then go ahead and acknowledge her work, no one should accuse me of bias.
Fungai Rufaro Machirori is a joyful person as her middle name Rufaro-Joy says.
When I first met her in India, 3 years ago it was quite interesting because we lived in the same country and the same city but we had actually never met. Or maybe I should say I had met her but she had not met me. I had seen her for the first time on television when she was one of the participants in Imagine Afrika, a reality TV show that brought youths on the African continent to engage in dialogue about, and raise awareness on HIV/AIDS and youths’ reproductive health. The idea of the show is to empower youths to envisage an African continent without new HIV/AIDS infections especially among youths. It is to imagine an HIV/AIDS free generation where youths were empowered, educated and responsible.
So the competition ran at the national level, one contestant was then chosen to go represent the nation at a continental level. Although, Fungai did not win the competition I felt she was a victor. She was not shy to push her viewpoint that abstinence amongst youths is the best way of creating an HIV fee generation. Never mind that people think it is old-fashioned and archaic but it is the best way of avoiding infection. Yes practising safe sex and sticking to one partner reduces the chances of infection but abstinence guarantees non-infection and Fungai was not shy to state this boldly throughout the competition.
Since then she has worked with SAFAIDS, a regional non-profit organisation that promotes effective and ethical development responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, measuring its impact through knowledge management, capacity development, advocacy, policy analysis and documentation. Fungai worked in both the Zimbabwe and South Africa offices. She has also done consultancy work with Consultancy Africa Intelligence, exploring the relationship between homosexuality and HIV/AIDS among other issues.
Apart from her work as an activist fighting HIV/AIDS Fungai is a writer, an influential writer. On her blog Fungai Neni she explores a variety of issues that are generally perceived as taboo, but which I personally find dynamic and innovative, including sex, virginity testing, abortion and sex work.
Fungai also blogs on Kubatana and Zimbojam. She has written many articles for Genderlinks and the Mail and Guardian. In 2010 she was chosen as a correspondent for the Voices of Our Future Programme on Worldpulse.
She has also written several short stories. In the story If Walls could talk in which my namesake Rumbi is the main character, she dissects the challenges of teenage pregnancy. In A Story for Nandi she portrays a young mother, ensnared in a web of agony from the rejection she faces from her family for having given birth to a ‘fatherless’, HIV negative child whom everybody assumes is positive because the mother tested positive when she was pregnant with him, an agony she expresses when she says,“I haven’t yearned for much else but acceptance since Trevor was born. But all I have received instead is the scorn and spite that forces me to retreat into the reveries of my mind.” However the beauty of this story lies in the mother’s unconditional love for her son and the clarity in her mind that she made the right choice when she brought her son into the world.
The artistry of this gentle creature called Fungai manifests itself much more vividly through her poetry. Fungai is an amazing poet. She featured in the collection Sunflowers in Your Eyes – Four Zimbabwean Poets. One of my favourite poems from Fungai is If you truly love me in which she challenges the notion of blind love, where lovers will have unprotected sex even at great personal risk to themselves, all in the name of love. I can hear her recite this poem in her calm sweet voice saying;
If you truly love me,
You will respect me enough
to protect me from harm’s paths;
For the road to lasting love is not an easy one
As the thorns of deceit and pain twist and mangle themselves upon the way,
Threatening to cause injury and misery…
Fungai was also one of the participants in the British Council Crossing Borders Project in which she was identified as one of Zimbabwe’s most creative writers. A number of her poems have since been published by the British Council. She is a Chevening Scholar who holds a Masters Degree in Applied Development Studies from the University of Reading in the UK.
To show that age is nothing but a number, Fungai has already received global recognition for her work. She was the recipient of the Africa-wide Award in the category of Best HIV/AIDS related articles for the African Network for Strategic Communication in Health and Development in recognition of the work she did to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. In 2011 she won the runner up Award in the World Summit Youth Awards (WYSA), in the category Power 2 Women for her role as content developer and administrator of her blog. This was a great achievement for Fungai and I (as a proud Zimbabwean who loves bragging about other Zimbabweans’ achievements). To be chosen among 700 submissions from 99 countries means she was just excellent. In the same year Fungai also won the International Activist BlogHer Scholarship, which brings together bloggers to share their experiences and ideas recognising the impact that international bloggers have on social transformation.
Just 2 days ago, she asked me why I was acting so strangely. Little did she know that right at the moment when she wrote on my facebook wall, I was busy writing about her.