Zimbabwe lost an iconic leader with Amai Mwazha’s passing. Mwazha was the wife of the African Apostolic Church’s lead and founder, Archbishop Paul Mwazha. She also led the Women’s Fellowship, called Ruwadzano, which allowed her to reach hundreds of thousands of women from Zimbabwe, Angola, the UK, and several other countries.
Earlier this month, Mwazha passed away at age 79 due to diabetic complications. Her daughter Tabita Gangai-Mwazha remembers her mother’s strength and dedication in her last years, saying, “Despite her advanced age, Amai could still do projects like weaving, gardening, and poultry. She always wanted to be practical. She would accommodate everyone: rich, poor, small, and big. Everyone could come to her seeking guidance and advice.”
This description comes as no surprise to those who were familiar with Mwazha’s work. After successfully running family businesses in the late ‘80s, she left the realm of business and found herself in the episcopal and clerical ministry. While “everyone could come with his or her own issue to her [and], she could keep all those issues to her heart,” according to congregant Leticia Shumba, Amai focused much of her attention on providing women with any support she could in order to help them live with good health, confidence, and independence. Leading the Women’s Fellowship allowed her to do just that.
Religion is the foundation of the Women’s Fellowship, but the organization’s work is focused largely on mental and physical wellness. The Fellowship organizes programs to teach HIV/AIDS counseling skills, provide home-based care, help the elderly, and promote self-reliance.
Comrade Nyasha Chikwinya of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender Community Development, recognized the significant impact that Mwazha had on the women of Zimbabwe. “She encouraged women to join the church, to be self-reliant, and pursue their dreams,” said Chikwinya. Referencing the initiatives of the Fellowship that advanced women’s abilities to financially support themselves, she added, “We have lost an icon in women’s economic empowerment, a very steady woman, who was commanding over half a million Zimbabwean women through the AAC led by [Paul] Mwazha.”
Similarly, those who sought Mwazha’s help directly admit that despite her leadership role in a religious setting, the majority of the help she provided was pragmatic. Her daughter-in-law, Miriam Mwazha, said, “Ever since I became part of the Mwazha family, I have been learning both at home and at church. Most of the lessons I got from her were practical … I remember accompanying her around the world; it was a great experience as she taught me to be a leader and a woman of honor.”
Mwazha’s youngest daughter, Tendai Mwazha, remembers her mother instilling in her a sense of self-respect. “She taught me the principle of valuing myself as a woman, not to allow someone to manipulate me, to stand my ground and be rooted in my faith,” said Tendai.
Last week, thousands of congregants from a number of countries attended Mwazha’s burial. They celebrated the life and mourned the loss of the leader of a movement that made it easier for women to be independent.
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