HomeStandard StyleFrom homemaker to Governor & CEO

From homemaker to Governor & CEO

At the dawning of each new day, we are presented with opportunities to pursue a life of significance.

New Ground with Patricia Mabviko Musanhu

Regardless of the difficulties and hardships that may prevail at any one time, opportunities do not cease to exist. What ceases to exist I believe is our ability to see the opportunity if we choose to be blinded by the hardships.

Hardships are inevitably part of the life equation. I believe the purpose of hardships is to test how serious one is about accomplishing their mission.

Winston Churchill once said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

The difference is really in how you perceive situations. I am convinced that those who focus on the hardships lose direction and those who remain focused on their mission overcome the hardships.

Orison Swett Marden put it rather clearly when he said, “Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.”

Without much education and with no real sense of purpose, Stella Dongo married at the age of 18. Growing up in Highfield where she had very little exposure to opportunities outside of her own surroundings, her ambition like most girls at that time was to become a nurse.

It is very surprising therefore that today, she is the chief executive officer of a furniture manufacturing company which is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and is also the first black woman in Africa and the only woman in the year 2013-2014 to be District Governor under the Rotary International District 9210, an organisation she has served for 18 years.

As District Governor, Dongo is in charge of overseeing 62 rotary clubs in four African countries and she reports to the International President who is based in the United States.

A year after getting married, Dongo had her first child and was to have seven more children in years to follow.

In the hope of getting a job, she took up short courses in childcare and home nursing, which were offered by the Red Cross at that time.

This opened up opportunities for her to get relief work as a nurse and she would move around working in different homes in the low-density suburbs.

This exposure led her to see how other people were living, which was different from how she lived in her high-density area. From here she developed aspirations to better her life, but this was made difficult by the fact that she had only studied up to O’level.

The following year, she had her second child and regardless of the demands at home as a young mother of two babies, she enrolled to study A’levels and completed these studies successfully.

She found it very difficult to balance the roles of wife, mother, student and her work and having to pay tuition fees.

After passing A’level, she took up a marketing diploma course and after acquiring this qualification, enrolled to study for a Bachelor of Commerce degree through correspondence.

The marketing diploma took her a lot of years to complete as she struggled to balance the demands of mothering a growing family. Just before independence, Dongo completed her degree and secured a job as a clerk and sales person for a clothing retail shop.

Despite her growing ambition to carve a career path and make a significant mark in the corporate world, she did not neglect her wifely and motherly responsibilities and continued to have children.
Inevitably, the demands at home continued to increase.

What made it even more difficult was that during those days, there was no maternity leave for women and therefore she was expected back at work soon after having a baby. The demands and responsibilities at work also began to increase when in 1986, she was offered a position as branch manager at a clothing retail shop.

Dongo became the first black woman to manage a branch in that retail chain.

In order for her work not to come in the way of nursing her children, she negotiated to have her maid accompany her with the baby each time she travelled and received overwhelming support from the company.

Over a period of 23 years, she rose through the ranks to become managing director in 2007.

In 2009, she was appointed chief executive officer of the furniture manufacturing company where she is today. “I was never conscious of being a woman at work. I realised that it was about getting the job done,” she said.

Whilst this was happening at work, Dongo was also rising up the ranks at Rotary International which she had joined in 1996. She rose through the ranks from being club President of the Highlands Chapter, Assistant Governor, Country Co-coordinator for all rotary clubs in Zimbabwe to the current position of District Governor.

“I subscribe to the adage that your attitude is the one that will propel your altitude. You might decide to take short cuts today and perhaps it might get you somewhere in the short term. However, in the long term, it’s substance that’s going to open doors for you and take you all the way to the top. I wish to thank my husband sincerely for the support he gave me with our eight children and for allowing me to pursue my dreams!” she added.

Patricia Mabviko Musanhu is a Company Director/Producer at Black and White Media Productions. She can be contacted at

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