Former Senator pushes youths, women into peace and development

27 May, 2024 - 10:05 0 Views
Former Senator pushes youths, women into peace and development

The Sunday Mail

Sunday Mail Correspondent

FORMER Senator Dr Sekai Holland wears many hats, including politics, philanthropy, civil society activism, youth empowerment and entrepreneurship.

In Zimbabwe, many know her as Co-Minister of State for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration in the Inclusive Government of 2009.

Others know her for being a fearless firebrand senator, who was not hesitant to speak her mind.

Closer engagement reveals an individual who, despite her dalliance with the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has friends across party lines.

She says she loathes division along any lines or guises — religious, party political, ethnic and tribal, racial, gender or any other negative “-ism”.

She has dedicated her life to campaigning for human rights, democracy and the empowerment of women, and, lately, aligning the boy-child’s development with initiatives to uplift the girl-child.

Her courageous spirit was recognised in 2012 with the Sydney Peace Prize, Australia’s only international prize for peace.

Dr Holland was a founder of Australia’s Anti-Apartheid Movement in the late 1960s.

Archival records show a younger version of her holding aloft a placard denouncing a 1971 tour to Australia by the all-white Springboks Rugby Team of Apartheid South Africa.

She also helped to establish the Murrawina Child Care Centre in Redfern and was active within the Aboriginal community during the land rights movement.

UTS (the University of Technology Sydney) awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2013 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to human rights and the fight for democracy.

She is also widely travelled and networked.

Many of these travels and networks served to bolster her passion for global unity, peace and the restoration of African values and principles, which she believes carry the solution to humanity’s sense of justice and fairness, particularly on the African continent.

The wind beneath her wings is her engineer husband, Jim, whose quiet and modest demeanor is in sharp contrast to Sekai’s energy and restlessness — still at high levels even in her 80s now but far from any thoughts of retiring.

They met at university when she went to study in Australia in 1964.

Since then, they have never parted, partnering in student activism and demonstrations for justice and fairness for all, which, they have consistently held, are fundamental prerequisites for ridding the world of the differences that divide humanity.

On this point, Senator Holland is adamant and immovable.

She leverages on their networks and the infrastructure of the Zimbabwe Peace Building Initiative (ZiMPI), for which she is founding chairperson, to pursue the goal of building global cohesion on the humanistic principle that all are born equal and have strengths they can bring to their communities for inclusive benefit.

Young men and women are a prime focus.

“Every child born alive brings into their family an additional pillar of strength,” she says.

“Everyone is responsible for the upbringing of every child in the village. ZiMPI believes in the principles of Ubuntu/Hunhu Wedu. That is where the principles of justice and fairness for all come from; for Africans believe that without justice and fairness for all there can be no peace … Africans say without peace, development stops. Without peace, there can be no development and without development, there can never be equality.”

She explains further, in contextualising the work that ZiMPI is doing with young people: “ZiMPI provides the young with spaces and opportunities like in an African setting pa (at the) village (level). We provide the structure (ZiMPI) for the young to come together (and join) intergenerationally composed gatherings where each discovers their area of talent. We are all gifted, every one of us, and we just need to discover our strengths.”

Daniel Zinyama is an “Ambassador” of the Boy-Child Project Partnering The Girl-Child Initiative and a protégé of the Hollands, along with Tamuka Hove.

“Tamuka Hove and I were mentored by the Boy & Girl Child Initiative under the guidance of Jim and Sekai Holland through their organisations, FairGo4Kids and the Zimbabwe Peacebuilding Initiative,” he told delegates attending the recent International Guest Lecture by Associate Professor Ambassador Matthew Neuhaus of Australia, at the University of Zimbabwe’s Great Hall.

An experienced and widely exposed former diplomat, Professor Neuhaus now spends time engaging the next generations as Honorary Professor at the Australian National University (ANU) College of Law.

“The initiative instilled in us the values of peace, order, balance and fairness while promoting equal opportunities for boys and girls,” Zinyama said.

“Their (Jim and Sekai Holland’s) mission to inspire young individuals to become leaders in their communities and nations, and their vision of a society where every child has access to quality education, healthcare and growth opportunities, has driven our journey forward.”

Vimbainashe Mudzimuirema — Zinyama’s female counterpart and mentee of Senator Holland who boasts a degree in Peace Studies from the Midlands State University —- concurred and lauded the Senator for shaping her personal journey as an intern with ZiMPI.

The experiences she gained at ZiMPI, she said, “allowed me to witness, first-hand, the transformative impact of peace-building efforts in our society.”

She added: “Together with dedicated individuals and organisations within ZiMPI and with the support of figures like Professor Neuhaus, we have actively contributed to fostering a culture of peace, reconciliation and social cohesion in Zimbabwe … Since graduating in December 2023, I have been working with ZiMPI to integrate the concept of national healing through establishing a collective National Healing Think Tank to empower our society to unite and address shared challenges collaboratively.”

Daniel chronicled some milestones that he and Tamuka Hove achieved, which illustrate the impact of the ZiMPI programme.

“Our first accomplishments were as award-winning delegates in Victoria Falls in April and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in August of 2021. These experiences laid the foundation for our growth as leaders and advocates of youth empowerment, reflecting the initiative’s mission and vision. In 2022, we progressed to the roles of chairperson and co-chairperson in conferences held in South Africa in April, Rwanda in June, Mauritius in October and Zambia in December. We sought to uplift youths, drawing upon the principles instilled by the initiative.”

These achievements, he said, gave them impetus to launch the Southern African Youth Development Council (SAYDC) at the end of 2022, which seeks to empower youths across the region and empowering them with appropriate tools for success.

“In February 2024, we had the privilege of chairing the African Youth Leadership Diplomatic Conference in Ethiopia. As leaders on the continental platform, we represented the hopes and aspiration of millions of young people, showcasing the growth that began under the initiative’s guidance.”

The pride, confidence and determination to succeed that oozed out of them was palpable in the Great Hall and a buzz ran through the mostly student audience.

Not surprisingly, many mobbed Vimbainashe and Daniel at the end of the programme.

Vimbai summed up the impact the initiative had on her principles: “I firmly believe that peace is nurtured through a culture of justice for all. With focused development we can build a society where equity is central to all endeavours, ensuring safety, security, happiness and prosperity for all. My dedication lies in creating a society where these ideals are not just aspirations but lived realities.”

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