“I found myself a little later than most people,” Zimbabwe native Tinashe Madamombe said, who is beginning her exchange semester at the University of Maine. “I actually didn’t know what I wanted to major in until I had a self reflection and discovered what I was really passionate about.”
Madamombe found that passion in women’s empowerment and gender based studies.
Madamombe, who is in her final year of studies at Women’s University in Africa, is pursuing a degree in women’s and gender studies. However, before beginning university, Madamombe had already found her calling in women’s empowerment when she founded a non-profit organization called Zimbabwe Young Women in Business (ZYWIB). “I actually started that before enrolling in the women and gender studies program,” Madamombe said of the organization. “I felt this program would give me the educational background I needed to further pursue women’s issues.”
ZYWIB works with young women under the age of 35 in different stages of business development. “Mainly we are trying to nurture the entrepreneurship culture or training more of an employer than an employee,” Madamombe said. The organization is meant to create a platform for young women to network. “The other not so traditional places to network such as bars, are not accepted for women in my society,” Madamombe said. This limits women’s opportunities to network and build their client base. However, with the organization, Madamombe hopes to “bring women together so they have a chance to network.”
As of 2014, the youth unemployment rate in Zimbabwe sits at 9.4 percent, so according to Madamombe, Zimbabwe is “really in a position where we have to create employment.” This is where ZYWIB comes in to facilitate. “Sometimes women are forced into starting businesses, not because they want to, but because they have to.”
In addition to creating a place for other young women to network and build their businesses, Madamombe has several business interests of her own. One of which, a clothing design company called Azariah Apparel, is based out of Zimbabwe and is run solely by Madamombe. “Everyone also used to think I dressed differently, people would ask what I’m wearing. That’s how I came up with it, and then I started designing for people custom made stuff.” Madamombe also runs a domestic and commercial cleaning business with her friend in Zimbabwe.
In the little free time she does have, she spends it serving the community. “I do a lot of volunteer work with orphanages back home.” Madamombe helps to raise funds for the orphanages, and also just enjoys “spending time with the children.”
This semester is Madamombe’s first time in the United States. “It’s much different than what I expected,” Madamombe says of the University of Maine, “but in a good way.”
At the Women’s University in Africa, she was also the president of the Student’s Representative Council, and hopes “my time at the University of Maine will also give me the opportunity to learn more about student governance.”
Madamombe hopes to one day establish an orphanage for girls with a girl’s school running concurrently with it. “It’s all part of my plan. I want to travel and volunteer a lot, especially in areas that affect women and children.”