Sally Dura: At the helm of Zim’s women’s movement & determined to break the glass ceiling

by SALLY NYAKANYANGA | Zimbabwe

Sally Dura – a rural girl, raised by a single mother is determined to break the glass ceiling and challenge throttleholds that undermine women in Zimbabwe.

I first met Sally Dura, three years ago, at a restaurant in Avondale, Harare as we share ideas and visions. She later invited me to her women’s leadership training session where I met other women in various spaces making a difference. I was amazed by her visible energy – she is full of life, optimism with can do it attitude. The light skinned, vivacious, always putting on a welcoming yet contagious smile is a true example of beauty with brains.

“I am a social butterfly, named after the late First Lady Sally Mugabe,” Dura explained.

Dura, an activist, leader, wife, mother, and worker – describes herself as a passionate woman who believes in offering solutions and lightening other people’s lives.

“Each and every one of us has something unique and holds the key within ourselves but it takes other people to stimulate the diamond inside us, to support it so we can join forces and work together,” says Dura.

Born 35 years ago, in Gutu Masvingo in a family of four. Dura stayed in the capital briefly and was forced to relocate to rural Gutu when her parents divorced whilst she was in her third grade. Dura had to join more than 12 other family members under the custodian of their grandmother.

She grew up surrounded by two powerful woman – her mother (single-handedly raising her and other siblings) and grandmother. Moreover, she only managed to see her father once after he divorced her mother before he passed on.

Growing up in a rural setup, Dura was not immune to herding cattle, pounding millet, making peanut butter and performing other domestic duties before leaving for school. “At some point, my mother could not pay for my school fees but through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) I was able to sail through my educational journey,” says Dura.  This didn’t deter Dura, as she even excelled in her education, always coming first or second in her class.

Seeing her mother and grandmother making it on their own seems normal to Dura, hence could not notice the missing male figure in her life’s journey and as a little girl.  “I can’t pick what I was missing because I never saw the difference of not having a father and having one in my life, as I could see we were better off in our family unlike other families headed by a man,” added Dura.

From being top of her class, participating in debate clubs, girl guides, Dura leadership journey began.  “I took leadership roles at every stage of my life – from academic right to my professional life,” says Dura. She sits on many boards and is the current chairperson of the Crisis Coalition.

She explained how her mother groomed and nurtured her and other siblings to prepare them for the inevitable such as in the case of her death. “She was not nagging, not too clinging, a free soul allowing me to be. She will be like go out there, be what you want to be, discover yourself and grab opportunities and never limit yourself,” Dura told the International Women.  She added that “my mother would take me to bars or music shows and would insist that I took care of myself wherever I was.”

Sally Dura (in blue jeans and africa print top) during a training session with female politicians in Harare recently

Sally Dura (middle) facilitating a training session for women politicians

Dura journey into women’s organizing began when she did her internship at Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU) when she was still at Midlands State University doing her History and Development Studies course. She later joined the Women’s Action Group before working at the Prime Minister’s office.

In August this year, Dura made heads to roll as the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), premises were left empty as opposition movement property was attached by the Sheriff when she and other former employees of the party won an arbitration award of $600 000 for unfair dismissal. The opposition party owed Dura up to 27 months’ salary arrears, damages for 36 months and other benefits. Though the case is still in court yet to be finalized, Dura opened a can of worms in the closet of the once vibrant opposition party.

Tsvangirai responded claiming that the MDC doesn’t owe the activist that kind of money. Dura noted that they are times of separating issues in terms of when to speak, when to fight and when to chill. She mentioned her case brought shock waves to the MDC, as it was something they were not anticipating and their responses were reactions based on shock. “Sometimes when people look at transformation – issues of accountability, litigation or human rights they think it happens to people who are not close to them or those in the rural areas.

“I didn’t take it personally since it’s being handled by the law, you then subject it to the legal process and allow the law to take its course. I did not put my feelings or emotions into it,” says Dura.

She believes as a rights holder, who has been in a long-term process wanted to make sure justice take its course.

Speaking on her next step, “my cycle is 3-5 years, by personality I am an adventurous person, who loves taking new challenges. I don’t stick around for more than five years, don’t want to be stuck in one space for too long I want to explore and face new challenges,” she said.

I am defined by love, positive energy, and passion and getting outside the box. Don’t like being limited or be boxed, suffocated, once that happens, you will see me breaking the box,” says Dura.

She explained her journey at the helm of the women’s umbrella body – the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe. “As the women’s movement in Zimbabwe we have made a lot of strides and progress, through each generation has its own mandate and struggles but we are beginning to see women in political spaces, more and more women organizing and taking mainstream spaces,” she noted.

During her time in office, Dura has managed to ensure women movement struggles are documented through the launch of the book – beautiful strength last month, which chronicles 80 years of women’s struggles and organizing in the pre and post-colonial era. Various women voices were captured and the book further looks at the way forward in women’s movement in the country.

As she winds up her journey as a youth, Dura is letting go of her duties and responsibilities in the youth movement. Sally is taking a personal retreat, as she retires in the youth movement, but she explains, I remain me, Sally but this time on a different shade

“I want to live my life with a purpose, have fun and continue contributing to other people helping them to become who they want to be,” she added.

Dura is now working towards pursuing her doctoral studies, as she prepares what she calls beyond 2020, when she believes by then she would pass on the batton stick at the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe to other able and competent women cadres to carry the torch further.