Tadziripa Madzima is the founder of IGNITE Youth, an innovative youth organisation in Zimbabwe that provides a purpose-centered approach to career guidance through holistic youth development, during and after-school, mentorship programs that help teenagers and young adults from underserved communities, to create livelihoods and careers for themselves. IGNITE Youth aims at raising purposeful, responsible, and skilled youth who will become the African leaders of today and tomorrow. In 2018, Tadzi was selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow and spent 6 weeks at the University of Texas Austin studying business and entrepreneurship skills. In 2020, Tadzi was selected as one of the honorees of JCI’s Top Outstanding Young Persons. She also won the Youth Mentorship Award in Shield Foundation’s 2020 Zimbabwe’s Women of Excellence Awards. Tadzi was also featured in Bulawayo-based Amahle Magazine as one of Zimbabwe’s 25 Influential women. She was also featured in the Simuka-Arise HiddenGem’s video series. In 2021, she was selected as a Gratitude Fellow by the US-based leadership development organization, The Gratitude Network.
Tadziripa has over 7 years of experience in youth skills and community development in the non-profit sector. She has a strong background in youth skills development through strategic youth program design, development, and capacity building. Tadzi’s approach to youth empowerment and mentorship recognises the multi-dimensional nature of the development needs of young people; hence she develops youth programs that seek to address the personal, social, physical, mental and economic needs of young people in a highly synchronised way and that strengthens the whole young person in his or her entirety. Child and youth development is hardly ever linear and is driven by the ecology surrounding the young person. That ecology includes adults, their family, other young people, the environment, social and economic realities, culture, and many more parities.
Besides being the Founder of IGNITE Youth Organisation, Tadzi is a communications expert with over twelve years’ experience in creating high-impact marketing campaigns for both corporate and nonprofit organizations. She served as the Africa Communications Manager for Reach for Change, an international organization that runs innovation competitions, accelerators, and incubators to support social entrepreneurs who are solving pressing issues facing children and youth. In this role, she oversaw communication for seven African countries, Tanzania, Ghana, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Senegal, and Ethiopia. She also provided training in marketing, communications and advocacy skills to more than 200 social entrepreneurs from these countries. In 2019, Tadziripa was promoted to Global Communications Manager for Reach for Change, where she supported the organization to deliver high-impact brand visibility across 18 of it’s operations internationally.
Thank you for making out time to chat to us — in your own words — who is Tadzie Madzima?
In a nutshell I would call myself a servant leader, a staunch believer in purposeful living, and an advocate for youth-led social change. I am also a marketing coach, a communications strategist and a proud mom to two amazing boys. I am the Founder of Ignite Youth Organisation that provides a purpose-centered approach to career guidance. Ignite gives youth, especially from underserved communities and disadvantaged backgrounds, access to quality career and employment mentorship, training, resources and opportunities, so that they get a fair shot in life at pursuing their chosen career path. Access to quality after-school and mentorship programs should not be a privilege for the few. Career-coaching can help to ensure that all youth in this country with dreams and determination can reach their potential and succeed. Why a purpose-centered approach you might ask? When [you] decide to live their life with a purpose, [you] are much more in control of [your] long-term happiness and in a better position to give back and be changemakers in their country. [You] won’t have the feeling like you’re just drifting, working towards some vague goal that doesn’t make you happy. I have chosen a purposeful path, one that empowers and guides young minds on their journey in life to find their purpose, and live life with passion. Purpose can guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning. For most youth, the purpose-centered career guidance we offer is leading them to meaningful, satisfying work.
Amazing! Tell us more about the work you do at IGNITE Youth?
IGNITE Youth is an innovative youth organisation in Zimbabwe that provides a purpose-centered approach to career guidance through holistic youth development, during and after-school, mentorship programs that help teenagers aged 13-19 years and young adults aged 20-25 years especially from underserved communities and disadvantaged backgrounds, to create meaningful careers for themselves. All of our activities are aimed at raising purposeful, responsible, and skilled youth who will become the African leaders of today and tomorrow.
Well done on all the amazing work so far; What’s your motivation?
I was raised by a single mother and growing up with a single parent is special, but it is not easy. If I have learned anything throughout my life on this planet, it is that a single parent will do anything it takes to give you the best possible life they can. Because my mother worked long hours to provide for my siblings and I, she had less time to interact with me about my career and life ambitions. Looking back, I admire that my mother was doing this major task of raising three children alone, which was already quite stressful and difficult on it’s own. Because of this, I had my own rough patches that are unique to growing up in a single parent household. There were times when I needed someone to talk to but I did not want to burden my mother because I could see the long hours she was clocking as she was playing two roles.
I was also receiving little to no career guidance at school. At school there was standardized career guidance. [You] either had to do arts, sciences or commercials for [you] to succeed. We were confined in a box. There was no in-depth guidance that could help someone who was clueless find a path that was unique to them. All this and voices from my friends, teachers and the pressure to make my mother proud led me to have a lot of confusion.
This is where my passion and purpose to start IGNITE Youth Organisation came from. Realising that there were probably many other young people who were in a similar or worse situation to mine, I decided to do something about creating opportunities for young people to access career coaching and to receive mentorship that supports their overall personal growth and develops them into future leaders. I also wanted to increase access to resources and opportunities that would help youth prepare for the workplace environment or run successful businesses of their own. I started working with the youth in my Church where I became the Youth Leader and Coordinator. Some years later, I realized that I wanted to expand the work I was doing with young people beyond my Church and impact young people across the country in schools, colleges, universities and the community at large. Thus I formed the IGNITE Youth Organisation.
You are committed to empowering young people to reach their full potential, grooming them to become effective leaders and change-makers in their communities and countries; how has that journey been?
The journey has been both challenging and exciting! I am constantly inspired by the stories of change and transformation that come out of our programs everyday of young people who are going for their dreams boldly and achieving great things in their communities. Since I started this work, I am so humbled to have received so many awards and recognition. In 2018, I was selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow and spent 6 weeks at the University of Texas Austin, at the McCombs School of Business, studying business and entrepreneurship skills. In 2020, I was selected as one of the honorees of Junior Chamber International’s Top Outstanding Young Persons. I also won the Youth Mentorship Award in Shield Foundation’s 2020 Zimbabwe’s Women of Excellence Awards and was also featured in Bulawayo-based Amahle Magazine as one of Zimbabwe’s 25 Influential women. I was also featured in the Simuka-Arise HiddenGem’s video series. And this year, I was selected as a 2021 Gratitude Fellow by the US-based leadership development organization, The Gratitude Network.
How much impact has IGNITE Youth made; and would you say that it has made a noticeable difference in the lives of young people?
By working in collaboration with communities and various stakeholders, IGNITE Youth is starting to change the narrative of what’s possible for young Africans —and demonstrating the power of developing a new generation of local talent and leadership.
Since it’s launch in 2018, IGNITE Youth Organisation has reached over 20,000 youth through it’s programs and events across two cities in Zimbabwe, Harare and Bulawayo, and recently launched in a third city, Mutare. Through 7 holistic Programs that focus on nurturing their talents, leadership development, mentoring, and access to resources and opportunities, IGNITE Youth empowers participants to find their career paths, hone their skills in their area of talent, supports them to create and pursue purpose-driven businesses, learn employment skills and ultimately empowers youth to become servant leaders in their communities. Through our partner network & through one-on-one support, we supported more than 750 youth to get access to scholarships, fellowships and internship opportunities.
We have more than 100 youth leaders and adult volunteers made up of mentors, professional counsellors, teachers, educationists, parents, and counsellors. We have also helped our leaders to learn leadership skills and gain both international and local mentors through online and offline meetings and events. We have worked with over 15 schools and colleges across the country to run after-school mentorship programs.
We also have a strong focus on girl empowerment. What we teach our girls is that they are all leaders, capable of making informed wise choices and decisions about their lives and thus we encourage them to choose the career path they feel they are most passionate about, irrespective of gender stereotypes. We also focus on making sure that girls develop self-confidence and are aware of their reproductive health needs. More than 60% of our youth leaders are girls because we believe their voice matters and so we give them platforms, information and tools that help them to feel confident about their personal choices, bodies, their intelligence, and their worthiness. We also have a Teen Mom Project in our Girls Program that focuses on supporting pregnant and parenting teen mothers, placing emphasis on educating young mothers to be able to thrive independently. We encourage them to pursue their education, provide career guidance, show them how to take healthy care of themselves and their children and teach them how to build healthy relationships. It is our hope that these young women learn critical life skills necessary to build a beautiful future.
Below is a testimonial from one of the girls:
“Three things I have learned from IGNITE Girls: One, that women can do anything, two, never give up and three, we are strong, intelligent and we have the power to change the world by working in the fields that we are passionate about.” – Rufaro Chapoterera, a member of the Ignite Girls Program
The organization is now aiming to grow it’s footprint into other cities in Zimbabwe, and establish it’s presence in other African countries.
Below is a testimonial from one of the leaders:
“Joining Ignite Youth Organization was the best move I ever made in October 2018. I yearned for a safe space for young people with a drive to serve their communities. As such, I became a young volunteer and was equipped with both soft and hard skills that would make me a productive member in my community. I later got to lead the Mentorship Program and it fell in sync with my passion and what I stand for. Through a number of workshops and seminars, my public speaking and leadership skills grew immensely. IGNITE provided a platform for me to bloom. End of 2019 I applied for a scholarship through my faculty at school. Among the required documents was proof of any civil engagement as a volunteer. It was really easy for me to provide such as I was an active member with Ignite Youth Organization. As such, the organization helped by giving me a Certificate of Membership as well as a recommendation letter that gave a detailed summary of my participation and contribution. Volunteer-work is one of the biggest assets a young person can have. It speaks responsibility, servant leadership and honour. In giving back to the community, I have received a thousand times greater and that just fuels me to take part in all activities and workshops Ignite Youth offers. Today, I am happy to say I am a proud benefactor of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung! Without any record of volunteer work and civil engagement, the opportunity could have missed me. I am happy it didn’t, and I am glad I had Ignite Youth Organization in my corner, making sure it didn’t.” – Samantha Kanoyangwa, IGNITE Youth Member and Mentorship Program Leader
We imagine that there’ve been highs and lows. What are the significant milestones and challenges you have encountered in your social impact journey?
In terms of highs I would say in addition to the success stories of youth whose lives have been transformed by our programs, we are so grateful for all the nominations and awards we have received. In 2019, IGNITE Youth was nominated in the Eatout Movement Force4Good Awards in the Youth Category as an organisation that is going an extra mile in helping prevent and fight social ills that affect youth. In 2019, Ignite Youth was shortlisted in the Pan African Awards for Entrepreneurship in Education hosted by Teach a Man to Fish, UK. In 2020, IGNITE Youth Organisation was nominated in the Glam Awards as one of the outstanding youth organisations contributing to Arts, Culture and Youth Development.
In terms of lows, I would say that we still have a long way to go in ensuring that all youth in the country have access to quality mentorship and training services. A lot more still needs to be done to ensure underserved youth are not left behind because of lack of access to certain resources such as digital tools for example. Policies developed for vulnerable youth need to be well-rounded so that they take a look at all angles that affect young people’s development. For example, although Zimbabwean law now prevents pregnant girls being expelled from school, society still stigmatises them. As much as we applaud the fact that teen mums can continue with their education after giving birth, a lot [is still needed] to educate parents, teachers and communities on how stigmatisation of teen mums is unfair and detrimental to their future. This example shows that it is crucial and imperative that the youth-focused policies take into account all aspects of a young person’s development.
What do you plan to achieve in the next 5 years?
My vision is to see an inclusive and equitable society that gives every young person, irrespective of socioeconomic status, an equal opportunity and chance to thrive and succeed in life. In the next 5 years, our goals are to have reached and impacted more than half a million youth across the country and to have expanded to more than 15 cities across Zimbabwe. We also plan to expand to other African countries namely Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi. In addition to this, we believe that as a youth organisation, we have an important role to play when it comes to contributing to the shaping of youth-focused policies in the country. We have already started participating in various forums which shape and contribute to the policy-making processes that affect youth in the country and plan to continue participating and lending our voice to those. We also plan to continue engaging government ministries such as the Ministry of Youth and the Ministry of Education on a number of projects that support well-rounded youth development in the country.
Tell us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for change we seek.” – by Barack Obama. We all have a role to play in making this world a better place. Once we realise that we all have a role to play, we will stop waiting for someone else to come to our rescue. This quote inspires me in my work with Ignite Youth every day. If not me, then who? This is a call to action for everyone to do their part to make our communities better.
If you had an all-expense-paid trip to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
If I had an all-expenses trip to anywhere in the world, it would definitely be a trip to visit Oprah Winfrey as she has been a role model of mine my whole life. Oprah Winfrey has endured and survived a tumultuous life, rising to become the most influential and powerful woman on television today, with her own hugely successful network and a worldwide following that stretches into millions. She also uses her network as a platform for improving the wellbeing of her viewers and strives to have a positive, meaningful effect in the world. This inspires me tremendously.
What does self-care mean to you, and what three things do you do to unwind?
As Michelle Obama put it, “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to-do’ list.” Happiness is holistic and multi-faceted. For me self-care is taking care of my own mental health, saying no without feeling guilty and intentionally blocking off time for myself in my calendar. I have to constantly take care of my own mental health by knowing when to work and when to rest. This sometimes means switching off my phone or disconnecting from the internet for some time. Women especially struggle with finding this balance because of the many responsibilities they have. But it is very important for me to block out ‘me-time’ in my daily schedule. This means different things – it means exercising, means preparing my favourite recipe, means watching a movie, listening to my favourite album, or reading a book, means traveling. It can also mean calling a friend and simply catching up. Or just listening to motivational and inspirational talks.
The LLA Grassroot Series is a monthly interview series that highlights the achievements and journey of an African female who has demonstrated exemplary initiative at the grassroots level.
The vision is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through impact at the community level.
It is an offshoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things at the grassroots level, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.