I had the incredible pleasure to hear Dr Tererai Trent speak at the Worldwomen17 conference held in Auckland last weekend.  This event was the dream of Theresa Gattung and Barbara Gabler who wanted to create an event to inspire women to create meaningful change in the world.

Dr. Tererai Trent is one of today’s most internationally recognized voices for quality education and women’s empowerment. She is a scholar, humanitarian, motivational speaker, educator, mentor, and founder of Tererai Trent International.

But that was not always the way.

Born and raised in a remote village in what is now known as Zimbabwe, her life was destined to follow in her mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers footsteps where the cultural norm was girls were married young, had children while they still were children and were illiterate.

Education was forbidden for girls and despite that, she said that more than anything, all she ever wanted was an education.  Her brother briefly taught her to read and write but there was little hope of anything changing.

Tererai was married at 11 years of age and had three children by the time she was 18.  Expecting her fourth child, one day an American aid worker visited her village.  This was to be a pivotal turning point in her life.

She met Tererai, planting the seed that ‘she could do anything.’  She asked her two life-changing questions: “What are your hopes?  What are your dreams?”

At first, the question confronted her and she fell silent.  But then as she thought about it, she said I have four dreams:

  1. To go to America
  2. To get a Bachelor’s degree
  3. To get a Master’s degree
  4. To get a PhD.

The aid worker replied – “if you desire your dreams, ‘tinogona’ / it is achievable.”

Feeling inspired, she shared her dreams with her mother who wisely responded – “Tererai, your dreams will have greater meaning if you connect them with your community.  And if you believe in this dream to get an education, you’re not only defining who you are, but also defining the generations to come.  It is what you desire to become that will change what you see.”

Taking her mother’s advice, she added one more dream

  1. To improve the lives of women and girls in my community.

Her mother also said ‘you must write these dreams down and bury them so that they will grow and grow.’  And that’s exactly what she did, burying them in a can under a rock where she used to graze the cattle.  The rock was her ‘dream keeper’ while she worked and studied, returning to her village from time to time to tick them off.

Within 20 years, she had achieved them all with Oprah Winfrey playing pivotal role in donating US$1.5 million to support her dream to build schools to ensure girls are educated.  Brick by brick and with the power of many, they’ve built schools that now have over 6,000 children attend.

She says, all I wanted more than anything was an education.  Now I can right the wrongs of the pas, break the cycle, change the future, and architect a better world.

‘I am a dreamer.

I create my own destiny.

I am the master of my own future.

I refuse to let the past dictate who I am.

I refuse to let the present challenges define my future.’  – Dr Tererai Trent

To hear Tererai speak is an incredibly moving experience that had me in tears most of the time.  Her presence precedes her and words simply cannot describe the impact she has on people.  She inspired me to re-consider my dreams and my greater purpose.

I will finish with one of her quotes “let your purpose define you, not your past or your present.”

Tinogona / it is achievable.

With much love, thanks and gratitude to Nadine Tereora and Fidelity Life for sponsoring me.



Jo Hutchinson MBA

Women as Leaders | Leaders@Work | Building One Team

Great Spirit NZ Ltd

T. 027 414 4291 E. jo@greatspirit.co.nz  W. www.greatspirit.co.nz

Jo’s passionate about helping people unleash their potential, step into their leadership purpose and play a bigger game. She provides Coaching, Mentoring and Facilitation Services for people who feel called to make a postive difference in this ever-changing world.

©2017 Joanne Hutchinson.  All rights reserved.