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Profile: Women gain skills and self-worth

Stella Dongo; Rotary Club of Highlands, Zimbabwe

In a nation challenged by high unemployment and one of the largest populations living with HIV/AIDS in the world, Stella Dongo, along with Carolyn Schrader of the Rotary Club of Denver Mile High, Colorado, has led the way in providing training, education, and hope to women and youth in need. 

Stella Dongo

Monika Lozinska

The two women’s Rotary clubs partnered in 2003 to start HIV/AIDS education programs in poor Harare communities, funded by Rotary Foundation grants. But when the Rotarians surveyed program participants, they found that an even more pressing need was job skills.

“The women we serve wanted to find ways to put food on the table and send their children to school,” says Dongo, a recently retired business executive and a 2015 Rotary Global Woman of Action.

In 2009, Community Empowerment in Zimbabwe was launched with a $330,000 Rotary 3-H grant to fund four years of job and business skills training for women and youth. In 2014 the clubs received a global grant to support advanced business and computer training for women, and another global grant in 2016 helped them expand their efforts in additional communities.

Today, the group is equipped to train about 500 women at a time. “When we started the program, these women were depressed and helpless,” Dongo says. “Now they have a sense of self-worth and pride. They see themselves as being able to stand on their own feet.”

– Anne Stein

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