Until last week, I had never heard of Dr Tererai Trent. I have Marie Forleo to thank for introducing this amazing woman to me. Her interview with Dr Trent aired on Marie TV last Monday, and after the first viewing, I knew I’d discovered a truly inspiring person.
Born in Zimbabwe into a life of poverty, early marriage and basic education, Dr Trent already had 4 children by the age of 18. Trapped in an abusive marriage, she didn’t even know it was possible for women to have their own dreams.
After Zimbabwe’s independence, more westerners began travelling through the country. Dr Trent’s life changed when she met with a group of American women who sat with the women of the community and talked to them about the future.
When asked what her dreams were, Dr Trent first said nothing. But the woman who spoke to her didn’t give up and kept asking till she finally spoke – she wanted to go to America; she wanted to have an undergraduate degree; she wanted to have a Masters; and she wanted to have a PhD. The dreams of a young woman who didn’t even have a high school education!
The local women thought she was crazy, but the American woman encouraged her, telling her it was achievable; if she desired those dreams and she wanted to change her life, it was achievable.
What I found particularly moving was the fact that Dr Trent’s mother and grandmother, who both only knew lives of poverty, early marriage and illiteracy, encouraged her and urged her to chase her dreams, to not give up.
It took her 8 years – EIGHT YEARS – to gain her high school diploma through correspondence. Even though her first few attempts resulted in ‘U’ (ungraded) and ‘F’ (fail), she did not give up but persevered till she got ‘A’s and ‘B’s.
She got herself and her family to America and began to work on getting her degree while working 3 jobs. Life wasn’t much better or easier, but she kept at it. As she said, “I knew at the end of the tunnel, despite the darkness, there was light. And I knew I had the solutions in me.”
After she got her Masters, she put getting her PhD on hold because she knew she needed to work and make a better life for her children.
When she started working, she got the surprise of her life. The CEO and president of the company which had employed her was the same woman who, years before, had asked her about her dreams and encouraged her to follow them because it was achievable! Neither knew of the other’s existence in that company until they unexpectedly bumped into each other. Honestly! You cannot make this stuff up.
Dr Trent eventually started working towards her PhD. 20 years after voicing her dreams, Tererai Trent got her PhD and became Dr Tererai Trent.
She’d had another dream, one which her mother had helped her decide – “Your dreams in this life will have greater meaning when they are tied to the betterment of your community.”
And Dr Trent dedicates her life to that dream, of bettering the lives of the women and girls in her community; building employment platforms and schools; making sure girls have the opportunities so many of us take for granted so they won’t be marginalised and silenced; and fighting for quality education for all children.
For me, personally, I find Dr Trent’s tenacious spirit a great inspiration; it somehow grounds me and gets me through what, at the moment, is a frustrating and difficult time.
Gordon and Liam watched the interview too, and they were blown away by what Dr Trent has achieved. Hearing how she’s coped with the hardships in her life has inspired them to make a real effort to change how they react when faced with unpleasant news or situations.
Needless to say, her book, ‘The Awakened Woman’, is on my list.