Zimbabwe’s Tererai Trent became famous in the United States after appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009. On the television program, she explained how she overcame great difficulties to get an education. Now, Trent finds herself honored with a bronze statue near one of Oprah Winfrey in New York City. She is reported to be the only African woman to have received this honor.
The life-like statue is one of 10 “Statues for Equality” created by sculptors Gillie and Marc Schattner. Trent’s statue shows her with arms raised, surrounded by the flame lily, Zimbabwe’s national flower.
Gillie Schattner spoke recently at a ceremony for the 10 statues. She said, “It comes without saying that, by projecting these women into larger-than-life-size sculptures, it will help change our society — a change that will elevate the lives of women all around the world.”
The Zimbabwean educator and humanitarian also spoke at the ceremony. She told the crowd, “I come from a very poor place, and I grew up very poor. I had four babies before I was even 18 years of age, and to think that because of the power of believing in a dream and today I am being celebrated.”
“And to think I have a statue in New York, the most celebrated city in the world? It’s just unbelievable. Even my own grandmother and my mother never dreamt of that,” she said.
Trent was denied an education in her village because she was a girl. She secretly learned to read by using her brother’s books. She was married when she was only 11. She says that her husband abused her.
But Trent did not let her dreams die. She moved to the United States and continued her education. She earned a doctoral degree after 20 years of effort. She taught at Drexel University in Pennsylvania and currently heads the Tererai Trent International Foundation. The group works to provide education to children in rural Zimbabwe.
Trent is a popular public speaker and writer. “When one woman is silenced, there is a part within all of us women that get silenced,” she said. “But when women are awakened and recognized in public places, all of us, we get the true joy of knowing that we are all equal with men.”
Trent’s story has motivated people around the world. Oprah Winfrey announced she would donate $1.5 million to assist Trent in building schools. In all, they have built 12 schools in rural Zimbabwe and helped 38,000 children get an education. Some of those children are now going to colleges and universities.
Beatrice Nyamweda is Trent’s friend of more than 35 years. She traveled from Zimbabwe to New York to attend the ceremony. She said Trent’s influence is felt back home in communities where not everyone has an opportunity to get an education.
Nyamweda added, “There are 10 children who went to her school and started studying at the university currently. She has changed the lives of these children who are bright but lack resources. I am proud of her for that.”
Trent said that what makes her happiest is passing along opportunities she received to others. She said she made a decision to end the poverty and oppression that held back the women in her family for generations.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Words in this Story
bronze – n. a metal that is made by combining copper and tin
doctoral degree – n. the highest degree that is given by a university
elevate – v. to lift something up; to improve the mind or mood of someone
opportunity – n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done
resources – n. a supply of something such as money that someone has and can use when it is needed
proud – adj. very happy and pleased because of something you have done, something you own, someone you know or are related to, etc.; feeling pride