My mother, Sarah Mugugu Bakasa was sickly when she was pregnant with me. I was born so small and prematurely. The nurse asked what my parents would name me but my mother cried, saying there was no hope for me. For days I was so small, not allowed to breastfeed and my mother wept daily. I started to put on weight after three months and then I was named Hope!
After graduating from the University of Missouri in the United States in 1980 with an MA in Public Administration, I worked in the government. With two other individuals, we founded the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Administration and Management (Zipam). I lectured part-time at the University of Zimbabwe and was the parastatals commissioner for two years. In 1989, I was the Public Service Commissioner. I noticed the inequalities for accessing jobs between men and women. Women had few opportunities due to their lack of degrees, confidence and inability to express themselves. Mature women could not access higher education. There were no universities to cater for them and they had too many responsibilities. This drove me to research on how I could bring change. I decided to retire early and work on setting up a women's university!
The rise to be a founder and the first vice-chancellor of the first women university in Africa was not an easy job.
I faced discouragement but it got me determined to continue. Women's University in Africa (WUA) opened its doors on September 2 2002. We began with three faculties, 147 students and 10 lecturers. Today, WUA enrols over 3 000 students, 46 from Malawi and 33 from Zambia and it has over 100 staff members and other properties. WUA caters for students who work and go to school at night, during weekends and school holidays. WUA offers lessons to women without the requisite English and Mathematics to enable them to embark on their intended degree programmes.
I am also a mother, wife, board member, relative and a friend. I have learnt to balance all roles. I believe a good leader is an agent of change and an example to the young. I prefer talks on gender equality and gender mainstreaming. I care about community development. I have donated 10 trophies to various colleges and schools to be awarded to top female students.
I feel what I have achieved could have been done by any hard-working woman. Accomplishment can only be realised through hard work. I read voraciously and feel if I am not reading or writing, I am wasting God's time!
My greatest inspiration comes from my faith and hope that whatever I put my mind to, I succeed. My inspiration is the power of God in my life and my trust in His power to give anyone whatever they ask for, whenever you give in to His power to lead you.
The next generation has a lot to do in the development of the country. They have to put in more work, fight for better lives, create opportunities, go into agriculture and restore the bread basket of Africa. Don't give up, pray and believe it will happen through God's intercession. Learn, seek advice and trust your intuition.
I want to be remembered for being tenacious in anything I put my mind to do, for saying "nothing is impossible, once one sets one's mind to create anything with the belief in God, success is imminent!
Improving the status of women is one of the most critical levers of international development. Woman Excel is an exciting forum created by women for women with the purpose of empowering women in every sphere of their lives.
Professor Hope Cynthia Sadza is a Platinum member of Woman Excel. Woman Excel embraces women from all walks of life and can help you break out of mediocrity to greatness.