BY GILBERT MUNETSI
LUCIA Gunguwo, or just Mai Gunguwo to her multitudes of followers, who is renowned for being one of the most prominent counsellors, motivational speakers and church pastors, has been on “mute” for a very long time.
A candid speaker whose no-holds barred deliveries have left many in awe, Mai Gunguwo recently revealed she disappeared from the limelight radar to pursue a long list of academic studies from a number of institutions of higher learning. Among these were Midlands State University (MSU), Lupane State University, Great Zimbabwe University (GZU), University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and Women’s University in Africa.
Now with two bachelor’s and four master’s degrees under her belt, she will soon be enrolling for a PhD that is bound to bear her the title “Dr Amai Gunguwo”.
Her thesis title for the latter which is yet to be approved is: Evaluation of early interventions for children exposed to disasters in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe (Cyclone Idai and Covid-19. When she speaks to an attentive listener, they will be quick to sense she finds it impossible to hide her emotional love for the juvenile population.
What makes the trail she has left over the past five years exceptional is the fact that the colourful achievements — which include a chain of distinctions and book prizes — are the product of a girl who battled a tough life in rural Mutoko in her early childhood years. Still wet under the nose, she later migrated to the city armed with just two O’ Levels, but so determined was she to overturn the odds stacked against her early life that she just would not let anything stand in her way.
Happily married to Apostle Cyril Tatenda Gunguwo of Eternal Word Ministries International whom she qualifies as being very supportive, Mai Gunguwo successfully supplemented and passed all the subjects she sat for as an adult literacy student at Nyandoro in Highfield. She then went on to obtain several self-
development course certificates before going for the more prestigious degrees that have been devouring her time during the lengthy hibernation.
“That is what has been consuming my time of late, the quest to seek knowledge and expand my horizon for purposes of being a better and educated citizen,” said Mai Gunguwo in an exclusive interview with Standard Style last week.
“Preaching and doing counselling work from the perspective of someone who just has basic understanding of matters is not adequate.
“One needs to explore, interrogate, monitor and evaluate issues at hand if they are to derive satisfaction and beat their chest and for a job well done.”
In her BA Honours degree in Development Studies acquired from MSU, for instance, she obtained a first class and was awarded both the MSU Book Prize and the J and Matunhu Family Award for the best undergraduate student. She had 30 distinctions from 35 modules in that programme, a record that is yet to be surpassed by anyone in the department.
The young members of her tertiary educational resume are an Executive Certificate in Programme and Project Monitoring and Evaluation (UZ), Diploma in Systematic Family Counselling (Connect), Diploma in International Communication, Diplomacy and NGO Studies (CCOSA) and a Post Graduate Diploma in Higher and Tertiary Education (GZU). She got distinctions in all four.
From the various universities she enrolled at, she holds qualifications in Monitoring and Evaluation Studies, Child Sensitive Social Policies, Development Studies, Disaster Risk and Livelihoods Management Studies, among others.
“As I proceeded in my pastoral and counselling work, it dawned on me back then that there were a lot of things that I did not know which affected my judgement and I decided the that I needed to empower myself. And to prove myself right, my whole world began to open up during my first year at MSU,” she said.
“Of course, I had to battle a couple of disadvantages which included marital life, advanced age among the youths and the age of my own children. Hard work, determination and the many candles burnt during the period eventually won the battle for me.”
The 48-year-old philanthropist has been honoured with a number of awards which include Relationship Coach of the Year, Megafest Female Entrepreneur of the Year (first runner-up), Women’s Business Top Female Personality of the Year, Top Female Community Leader of the Year and the Zimpapers Marriage Counsellor for the 2013 Bridal Show, among others.
Very few people may appreciate that Mai Gunguwo’s emergence into the celebrity world was by mere coincidence rather than design. The event, she reminisces, was a conference where she was invited to address congregants on a given topic — bedroom issues!
Before making her presentation, a concensus had been arrived at with her listeners not to record, but people being what they are, the lesson did not take time to find space on social media platforms.
“Many people were impressed, some were excited and no sooner had I settled down, they wanted to hear more. So you can see that Mai Gunguwo never advertised her calling or sought fame, but it was the other way round. You could say that I became a leader by position – that of being an apostle’s wife and a pastor in my own right,” she said.
It was that first public lecture going viral which attracted more important invitations from corporates where she would be paid to address employees. Notable names that quickly come to her mind are Olivine, Trojan Mine and MSU where the target group were the young women students who have to put up with the pressures of college life, especially after having come from smaller family institutions.
Apart from her charity organisation, Voice of Peace, established in 2001, the workaholic Mai Gunguwo has a long list of enterprises she is involved in. Catering, events management, decor and a recently formed construction venture are some of them.
“My wish is for fellow women to shun the ancient culture of being entirely dependent on their husbands, but to be their helpers as the Bible says,” she said.
“Instead of remaining crybabies, they must just wake up from their slumber and seek ways by which they can be self-sustainable even in the unfortunate situations that the husband is no longer there.
“This certainly can be complemented by having relevant policies put in place to reverse inequalities, as well as decentralising development, especially to the rural women. If that is done, the the world will certainly be a better place.”