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Inside/Out with Wadzanai Motsi, Thomas J. Watson Fellow, activist and book lover
October 28, 2013

Describe yourself in five words?
Stubborn, hard working, talkative, thinker and passionate.

What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession is whatever book I’m reading. At the moment I’m reading The Grapes of Wrath. Last week I was reading a book by Francine Rivers and the week before I was reading Paulo Coelho.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Not knowing what I’m doing and failing to have some direction.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
Mine are pretty generic hobbies. I like taking walks, reading, singing and watching TV.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Buying a pair of shoes for US$60.00 in the US while I was still at school!

What is your greatest fear?
Losing the people I love either through death or ending relationships badly.

What is your favorite journey?
The one I took last year with a friend of mine when we went to southern Egypt. We visited the Red Sea cities but went further down to a place called Hurghada and it was so quiet and beautiful.

What were you like at school?
I was very involved and I did a lot of different activities at school.

When and where were you happiest?
When I graduated from college of course!

Do you consider yourself an activist? And why?
I have been developing a consciousness for activism for years now but I’m still trying to decide if I’m an activist on not. According to my own definition, yes I am an activist but have I done something active - I’m not entirely sure about that. While still in high school I worked with Interact and at college I joined lot of different groups. The University I went to had a strong ethos of community service. I would be very unhappy if I was living just for myself and not for a bigger purpose.

What type of social problems do you work on? Why do you think they are important?
I’m passionate about governance and looking at how we can get the average citizen involved in governance issues - particularly women. I think there are structures lacking in involving an average person in decision-making. I believe the more you consult people the more ideas you get.

What are some of the approaches and methods you use in your work?
Just having conversations is a good start. I think that is where most learning takes place. I enjoy engaging people in conversation and sharing experiences and ideas on how to address certain challenges.

What are some of the challenges you face in your work?
For me the hardest challenge is about finding my place.

How can you young people of Zimbabwe take effective action for change in the community?
Well I’m impressed but also distressed with young people in Zimbabwe. I’m impressed because the situation that we are facing in Zimbabwe as young people is not normal, but young people still find ways to make things happen for themselves and go to work. It takes a lot of initiative and intelligence but on the flip side that consciousness is very limited to focusing on todays needs, forgetting about tomorrow or thinking about a vision 10 years on. From my perspective, as a young person, I think we need more examples of people who are aren’t only making money but also doing something constructive, for example the Econet business model. We need these people to mentor and transfer knowledge to young people in Zimbabwe.

Tell us about your experience as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow
I learnt about the fellowship during my first year at Grinnell College in the United States of America. The college I went to nominates four people for the fellowship every year and its based on random criteria. You propose a project and state why you are passionate about it. And my project was on “Motivation for youth political activism”. The experience in itself was a lot harder than I expected it to be because it took a lot out of me. I had to make travel arrangements by myself and adapt to the new environment in a foreign land where you don’t speak the language but I am glad I did it. I have traveled to so many countries, which include Cambodia, the Czech Republic, and in Africa I went to Tunisia, Egypt and Ghana. One thing I noted though in these countries is that there is this glass ceiling, which still exists in terms of women’s participation and involvement in leadership and holding positions of power. That’s the reason why I shifted focus from being a development focused person to being more interested in women in governance and trying to advocate for that.

What do you intend to do with this experience?
At the moment I’m really just taking it one day at a time. This experience kind of pulled me in all sorts of different directions so I’m intentionally trying not to package it. I’m using some of this experience in my day-to-day work and I am also following my passions and hoping that whatever I have learned will be sufficient to carry me forward.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My dad is definitely a hero and my mother as well. And also this past year I have met some phenomenal people like this young black Tunisian woman who really inspired me. I believe there is something to be learned from every experience I have and every person I meet.

What are you doing next?
Right now I’m volunteering with Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace Building. After that I’m working on a social responsibility project. I am passionate about Africans developing Africans rather having someone coming in to help us. I’m also trying to see how businesses can become more socially responsible in their practices.

I would love to keep the conversation going especially through social media. I am available on twitter: @MissWadzi, email wadzi.motsi [at] gmail [dot] com and you can read my blog on

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