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Sandra Chuma : Breaking the stereotypical narrative of African women in the media one story at a time

In this week’s edition of the Women on Top series we feature a phenomenal Zimbabwean-Canadian mother, wife, aunt, storyteller, filmmaker and entrepreneur, Sandra Chuma.

By Cecilia Kamuputa

Chuma was born 45 years ago in what was still known as Salisbury to Salvation Army Officer parents.

“In my early years, we traveled a lot, by the nature of my parents’ work, so I lived in many different places as a young child ndakakurira kwanzvimbo, tikazoenda kwaMutoko, all different places,” she said in an interview with NewsDay.

Chuma then moved to Bulawayo at 9, with her parents leaving being full time Salvation Army Officers, her father getting a job at the National Railways of Zimbabwe and her mother being employed by the Zimbabwe Electricity Services Authority and there, she attended the Dominican Convent, from grade 4 to her A levels before moving to England where she attained her first undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Arts Joint Honors in Accounting and Marketing from the University of Hertfordshire.

She lived in England for 10 years then in 2000, together with her husband, moved to Canada, then to San Diego in the United States of America and back to Canada.

Chuma then went to Graduate school to Columbia University to attain a Master of Science Honors in Multimedia Journalism and Documentary Filmmaking and lived in New York for three and a half years for her documentary making Fellowship, teaching for a year and a half.

“Part of the reason why I went to Columbia was, one of the things that I was particularly frustrated about as a black woman African in the Western world was that so rarely did I see my story reflected, what I saw reflected in mainstream media was a stereotype of what an African woman is,” said Chuma.

“For most people, their only exposure to what an African woman is, is  what they see in the adverts of  aid organizations.”

She added that when she went to Columbia Journalism School, it was with the intention of her wanting in some way, to learn the skills to be able to tell stories, so that she could be part of the telling of a different narrative of the African woman.

Among Sandra’s projects is PLUS!, a documentary on the plus-size fashion industry which won her the 2016 Gracie Award. She also co-directed and produced Queens and Knights, a profile of the Gotham Knights, an inclusive rugby team in New York City and was awarded first prize in the NBC Sports CPTR’D Contest.

Another notable project, the most recent one, is NDINI, where she is the Chief Executive Officer of NDINI Media, which according to the official site, is ‘a collection of the voices, wisdoms, witticisms and truths of African women: women who are leading their communities, and shaping the world with their strength, passion and vision. It is place to tell the extraordinary and untold, with pride.’

“I started NDINI Media because I was tired of seeing the stereotypical narrative about Africa, and in particular African women, portrayed in the media.  We’re generally shown as powerless victims.  And yet we are phenomenal powerful, resilient, brilliant women!” Chuma pointed out on her official twitter account, @SandraChuma.

The idea for NDINI came from Sandra’s desire to support and inspire the young women in her life, having borne a personal struggle to find representation in the media that honored and hailed true African capabilities.

“Storytelling is my absolute passion, I grew up listening to my grandmothers telling folktales or ‘ngano’ as they are known in my mother tongue of Shona and the phrase “Sandra talks too much” appeared often on my school report cards,” said Chuma via her official website.

Besides the Master of Science Honors in Multimedia Journalism and Documentary Filmmaking from Columbia University and the Bachelor of Arts Joint Honors in Accounting and Marketing, Chuma also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and is a Certified Business Analyst courtesy of the Royal Roads University.

“But like I said, I love storytelling. That passion led me to Columbia Journalism School, where I rediscovered my purpose, and honed my storytelling skills using video, audio and words,” she added.

In 2001, Sandra partnered with her husband to create OBP, Open Business Process, an IT and management consulting company which she is the Chief Business Strategist for Open Business Process of. She is also the Founder of Women on Fire Summit as well as the Co-Founder of Verified Talent.

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