Fellow Since 1997
Zimbabwe Adult Learners Associations
This profile was prepared when Virginia Mupandunki was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1997.
The New Idea
Virginia Mupanduki has used her previous union experience to read the political climate of Zimbabwe, where, through her powerful organizing elements, she is giving a political voice to women without money or literacy. By combining literacy training and women's empowerment, she encourages their emergence as a new political and economic base, and she is persuading the government that the women represent a constituency that has been ignored and needs to be recognized. Virginia's "bottom-up" approach empowers women to do for themselves, thereby destroying poverty via literacy, even when government has tried and failed. Her project is thus likely to have a higher rate of success than that of adult literacy programs sponsored by the government. Her work is sustainable not only because once obtained, literacy is permanent, but also because it is rooted in the targeted communities. Usually in such cases, learned people are asked to do things for people at the grassroots level, but in this case, someone from the grassroots is using her experience to teach others how to take charge of their lives.