Magazine article New African

Hope Sadza Bridging the Education Divide; What Inspires a Woman to Rise from Being a Rural School Teacher, to One Who Creates the First Mature Women's University in Africa?

Magazine article New African

Hope Sadza Bridging the Education Divide; What Inspires a Woman to Rise from Being a Rural School Teacher, to One Who Creates the First Mature Women's University in Africa?

Article excerpt

What inspires a woman to rise from being a rural school teacher, to one who creates the first mature women's university in Africa? New African Woman's Elizabeth B Mpfumira interviewed Dr Hope Sadza (inset) to find out how she did it.

For Dr Hope Sadza, it's a mixture of a driven personality, a deep love for people, a mother who instilled in her a strong sense of service and empowerment, and most importantly an intense desire to create a conduit to allow ordinary African women to advance themselves and improve their quality of life. With this, she opened the doors to the Women's University of Africa (WUA) in 2002.


Dr Sadza is that special brand of African woman who when she sees a problem doesn't just complain, instead she immediately seeks a solution. Throughout her illustrious career, steeped in education and academia, she always saw a great disparity in the African education system that at times bordered on the archaic.

This strong disregard for women's advancement and empowerment was glaringly obvious. "It didn't help that the majority of people in positions of leadership in the higher education system were men, so there really was little emphasis paid to women's studies," she says.

So together with her counterpart, the equally illustrious Dr Fay Chung, former minister of education in Zimbabwe and member of the Association for Higher Education for Women in Africa, they sought out to rectify this wrong. The momentum to open the university was a follow-up to the British Council Horizon 2010 series and Women in power-Releasing People's Strength conference held in Zimbabwe in November 1999 that sought to enhance the knowledge and skills of women in Africa. Through personal donations and a substantial start-up grant from the Rockerfeller Foundation, the institution was awarded its charter by President Robert Mugabe in 2003.

The Harare-based WUA provides mature women with the opportunity to further their higher education, and expand their career options. "We call it 'the second chance university', because it allows women the chance to start over. It gives them a chance to live the life that they may have only dreamt of. We help make dreams a reality," she says.

During the time when Dr Sadza was the deputy chairperson at the University of Zimbabwe Council in the early 1990s, she saw that there was a glaring gap in education options for women to advance themselves, she was dismayed at the unfairness of the education system in providing access to female students. Women made up only 33-34% of the entire student body. "You found that women were designated more towards the arts and humanities and they had limited access to the sciences," she says.

It was against this background that Dr Sadza decided to provide women with wider options in their life path. "Many women would only go as far as being secretaries, administrative assistants, or nurses-they were not able to strive for higher positions because they would not have the qualifications." Through extensive research, WUA established what areas of study women needed the most. Armed with this knowledge WUA decided to provide Bachelor of Science degrees in areas of management, agriculture, entrepreneurial skills, information technology, reproductive health, and education. "In the case of education, we found that many women who were teachers were never able to apply for higher positions such as headmistress, because they did not have the qualifications, even though they were otherwise able," says Dr Sadza. …

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