THE touching story of the Sahumani Secondary School rugby girls has once again touched the heart of more benefactors after a United Kingdom (UK) based charity organization, Caring For Girls Foundation, last week Tuesday donated sanitary pads and bath soaps valued at US$200 for the girls rugby team.
Situated 100 kilometres from Mutare in Honde Valley in Mutasa district, near the Mozambique and Zimbabwe border lines, Sahumani Secondary School was barely known before 2017. However, the introduction of rugby became a game-changer for the remote rural school. The girls made their debut appearance at the prestigious, annual Dairiboard Schools Rugby Festival in 2017 as a developmental team and made headlines. Five of its girls were selected in the national Under-18 team which traveled to South Africa for the venerated Craven Week tournament. Since then the school has been producing rugby gems each year.
Companies such as the local seed manufacturer Agriseeds (Pvt) have since come on board by building a jungle gym for training and donated kits for two teams, comprising of jerseys, shorts, socks, rugby boots, tracksuits, t-shirts, caps and kit bags. Individuals have also donated in cash and kind. Now, Caring For Girls Foundation, a brainchild of Farai and Nyasha Chieza based in the UK has come on board and has vowed to donate sanitary pads and bath soaps every month to help the girls. Some of the girls come from disadvantaged backgrounds where their parents can barely make ends meet to put food on the table.
Speaking during the handover, Violet Chieza, who was representing her son Farai said sanitary wear was important to empower the girl child to freely participate in sports. She said not all girls can afford sanitary wear which is why Caring For Girls Foundation focuses on girls from poor backgrounds.
“We have heard about situations where girls do not come to school when they are on their periods because they cannot afford sanitary pads,”said Violet, a retired nurse.
“Young girls at times fail to take part fully in sport like boys because of their menstrual cycle as some cannot afford sanitary pads. Towards menstruation the girls fail to play sport or even fail to go to school which is not fair. I have heard that some are still using cow dung that our grandmothers used back in the days, some use newspapers and leaves, but that is unhygienic and has effects which may lead to cervical cancer. This is why the Foundation was created. In this day of gender equality the girl child from disadvantaged backgrounds needs our support,” said Violet.
She added that as a former sports person and rugby fanatic at Mutare Sports Club (MSC), her son heard about the Sahumani girls story, which explains why together with his wife they decided to donate to the girls as charity begins at home.
“The programme started at Prospect Academy in Harare where disadvantaged girls are being assisted with school fees and sanitary wear, but it also expanded to a feeding prgramme through the support of parents in the community. Farai and his wife however decided to bring the same programme to Mutare, which is home.”
Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) president Aaron Jani who was coincidentally in Mutare with his deputy Losson Mtongwaza for a stakeholder board meeting thanked the Chieza family for their philanthropic deed, especially towards empowering disadvantaged girls in sport. “We are privileged to have you in our community to assist the girl child in such a special way. We have also learned from this as a union,” said Jani.
MSC chairman who is also the Manicaland Rugby Board (MRB) chairman Josiah Borerwe said the Sahumani rugby girls success story is an archetype of why it is important to expand the sport to rural areas countrywide.
“It was touching to hear how the rural girls who had never stepped out of Mutasa got an opportunity to travel to Harare for the first time ever because of rugby. The girls like Catherine Muranganwa who went further to play for the Under 18 national side at the Craven Week festival in South Africa had an even more life changing experience of crossing the border for the first time ever…We have gems in our rural schools that just need exposure and we need such partnerships to grow the sport at grassroots level,” said Borerwe.
Sahumani rugby coach Patricia Makunike-Chakanya said they now have the Sahumani Bullets which is a girls rugby team for those that would have finished school.
“In the rural areas in Mutasa, young girls are usually married off to polygamous men after school and even while they are still in school, especially those from apostolic church backgrounds. But we want to use sport as a pastime activity for the girls during and after school. It is our dream to see one of our girls play at international level and make our community proud,” she said.
Jani after being touched by the noble initiative pledged to pay school fees for 18 girls and to buy a full kit for the new kid on the block, the Sahumani Bullets. The ZRU president also promised to visit Sahumani Secondary School and see for himself the great work being done there.