Barbara Rwodzi: Zimbabwe sees Russia as a crucial partner
Barbara Rwodzi is Zimbabwe's Deputy Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality. She is a holder of Masters of Business Administration Degree and a Bachelor Honours Degree in Business Studies. Barbara Rwodzi is also a successful entrepreneur, owning a number of companies specialising in energy solutions, financial services, clothing and community development projects.
In an exclusive interview with TV BRICS, the politician spoke about the important initiatives of the First Lady of Zimbabwe to combat the effects of climate change, in education and social assistance, as well as about promising areas for cooperation between Russia and Africa.
You attended the 24th International Scientific Conference on Economic and Social Development. Tell us about your experiences.
I was most interested in the sessions on women entrepreneurs. I have the impression that world leaders have finally realised that women contribute enormously to the economic and social development of countries around the world.
Russia has taken a step forward in this direction by bringing together women from different countries, from different continents, to talk about how best to improve the efficiency of the economy and social development around the world. And I am happy that Mrs Mnangagwa, First Lady of Zimbabwe, was invited to attend the conference and represent our country.
During the First Lady's visit to Moscow last December, a memorandum of assistance was signed between the Angel of Hope Foundation and TV BRICS. What programs of the foundation can be developed together with TV BRICS?
We are very grateful for the work that our First Lady is doing across the country. Auxillia Mnangagwa is visibly changing our society for the better, especially the younger generation. The First Lady's Foundation is giving back to the people their legacy. Auxillia Mnangagwa reminds the Zimbabwean community of its roots and invites them to revisit their rich original culture. For instance, the first lady promotes gastronomic tourism. There is a cooking competition that has been held all over the country for the last two years. It allows you to go back to the folk roots and remember our grandmothers' dishes, while offering a taste of a new format of familiar food. The competition has taken on a new dimension, becoming so grandiose that other countries in the region genuinely admire it.
Incidentally, this initiative goes a long way towards promoting tourism in our country. The next project, also proposed by the First Lady, aims to raise interest in education. After all, children need help, to guide them, to point the right way, to catch their attention. Our First Lady also has medical programmes. They help families with the elderly. We invite everyone to workshops on how to improve physical and mental health. All the initiatives I have outlined can be carried out in cooperation with TV BRICS, so that more people not only in Russia but also in other BRICS countries will become aware of them.
At first glance, Russia and Zimbabwe are very different countries. But at the same time we have a long history of friendship. In what ways are we similar and what creates such a strong bond between us?
Russia and Zimbabwe have always had very good relations. After the liberation struggle in 1980, when we gained our independence, the Russian Federation was involved in the reconstruction of our country. You trained our citizens. Russians came to Zimbabwe to share knowledge in construction, medicine and agriculture. You helped rebuild our capital and in one way or another helped rebuild our country. Our task today is to develop and strengthen cooperation with the Russian Federation, now in the fields of economy and culture. Zimbabwe sees Russia as a crucial partner on the African continent and continues to make efforts both to improve the business climate between the countries and to help address socio-economic challenges.
In 2019, your President Vladimir Putin said that Africa and Russia can work together and be part of a global community. We fully agree with this. The people of Zimbabwe fully support this idea. We have many options for cooperation. We look forward to developing the relationship further.
The topic of climate change has become a global debate. After all, the First Lady is paying a lot of attention to the environment and the tourism industry, which is, in fact, the remit of your ministry. What strategies are being implemented in Zimbabwe to offset the effects of climate change on ordinary citizens.
Our First Lady speaks out for the environment and wildlife in Zimbabwe. This issue is in the department of our ministry. Over the past five years, Auxillia Mnangagwa has done considerable work in this regard. By her personal example, she is promoting a tree-planting culture among the country's residents to avoid deforestation of the area and preserve the local ecosystem. In some parts of Zimbabwe, for example, tree planting has become an integral part of people's daily lives. <...> In just one year, between 2022 and 2023, between 17 and 18 million trees were planted. Compared to the previous three years, the number of new trees has increased by 48 percent, and this is a direct credit to our First Lady.
It was she who taught people to take care of their environment. This is our way of trying to do our part in the fight against climate change. Mrs Mnangagwa also has other initiatives in which she educates the younger generation. She gathers young children from two years of age and above and tells them about the importance of water and how to conserve it. That our rivers must remain clean. It is about teaching young children to cherish and appreciate nature from an early age.
There are other programmes for older people, but it is clear that we should start with young people and teach them how to preserve the environment right now. And these are just some of the initiatives we have taken from Russia. The First Lady also led the agricultural programme that our President Dr Emerson Mnangagwa is implementing in the country from 2019. It is an agricultural initiative focused on sustainable harvests in the face of climate change. Our first lady has decided to expand it. It has attracted women entrepreneurs, and now more than half of its participants are women farmers who devote their free time to developing new programmes to improve crop yields. Mrs Mnangagwa is organising for them to receive joint training in wise farming. These are all initiatives that we are implementing together with our First Lady at the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality.
The First Lady received an honorary award from the Russian State University for the Humanities. About 500 students from Zimbabwe are currently studying in Russia, taking their cue from the nation's mother. What advice do you have for these students?
First of all, I will say that these guys are very lucky, they were chosen by our first lady. They were chosen by our president. And yet we have thousands of students who also want to come to Russia. What I want to say to them is to cherish this chance that the Russian government is giving them, that the Zimbabwean government is giving them. They should also appreciate the opportunity presented by our First Lady. All that Auxillia Mnangagwa wants is for them to know and remember where they come from, to remember their culture, to pay special attention to their education, because without education you cannot be a person. And here is an opportunity to leave home for a distant country to get a free education. This is an opportunity to be cherished.
Photo: TV BRICS, istockphoto.com, The Herald
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