BY KHOLWANI NYATHI
SELMOR Mtukudzi is not only preserving her iconic father’s rich legacy by producing quality music, but is also taking a keen interest in causes that were close to his heart.
Selmor, a versatile contemporary musician and actress, is one of the late Oliver Mtukudzi’s most prominent children and an outstanding singer on Zimbabwe’s music scene.
Whenever she performs live, the talented songstress makes it a point to do renditions of some of her father’s greatest hits and as they say an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
It was probably with that in mind that Unicef Zimbabwe decided to rope Selmor in as one of the role models to help fight child marriages by changing society’s perception of women as part of the project.
Unicef will roll out a series of activities to stimulate debate about the role of women in order to stem the scourge of child marriages.
Selmor told Standard Style in an exclusive interview that her father’s work as the Unicef regional goodwill ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa from June 2011 until his death in 2019 inspired her.
Mtukudzi’s work with Unicef focused on young people’s development and HIV and Aids prevention, roles that have now been taken up by her daughter.
Selmor said it didn’t come as a surprise when Unicef approached her.
“I remember being happy and proud to see my dad working with such a wonderful organisation, but I wasn’t too surprised as I already knew that he had written music that spoke about some of the issues that Unicef deals with,” she said.
“I knew dad would be invited to different important events to speak and perform some of his relevant songs.”
She believes influencers like her must use their talents to inspire communities and help address problems, such as the HIV/Aids scourge and other problems facing young people.
“It’s important to speak up about issues facing our communities,” I believe that being icons in society comes with a responsibility to it to make sure that a more safe and conducive environment is created for the benefit of its inhabitants, especially the vulnerable members such as children and young women.
“I saw my dad using his voice to spread the message of love and respect and I learnt a lot from that.”
She remembers fondly some of the Unicef campaigns that her father supported such as the one seeking to end child marriages.
“More recently I remember seeing big billboards portraying the message of stopping child marriages,” Selmor recalled.
“The billboards stayed up for a while even after his death and this made me think that even in death dad continued to fight for children’s rights from the messages he left behind.”
She sees herself as a role model for young Zimbabweans.
“I am essentially a role model to the young girls and women,” Selmor said.
“I get the privilege to travel to different places sitting down and discussing issues that they are going through.
“I am humbled to be able to do that and I have found that it gives me a better understanding of what’s happening in our communities and I get to hear it first hand from the people experiencing it.
“I also get to hear how and why some of the young people are in the situations that they are in, and we try to come up with solutions and even just encourage them to go back to school and continue with their education.”
In the past she has worked together with a number of organisations throughout Africa that advance the empowerment of women.
One the biggest organisations she has worked with is one.org, “a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030.”
“I have worked with a number of organisations over the years, the biggest one being one.org” Selmor said.
“We were brought together as female musicians from across Africa to do a song about the importance of empowering women for the benefit of the society.
“It ran under the theme ‘Poverty Is Sexist’.
“We believe that when you empower a woman you empower a nation. “On the project there was Judith Sephuma from SA, Yemi Alade from Nigeria, Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania, Victoria Kimani from Kenya, Arielle T from Gabon, Gabriella from Mozambique, Omotola from Nigeria and myself.”
Her biggest goal is to change the perception of most people in Zimbabwe that women are only good for child bearing and nothing else. “You’ll be shocked to find out that even in this day and age a lot of parents still think that taking a boy child to school is more important than educating their girl child.
“It’s heart breaking to know that even the mothers believe that too.
“If I can do my least bit in changing that belief and that narrative to whatever extent I would be really happy.”
One of the biggest Unicef campaigns she is involved in is an effort to gather 2000 signatures for a petition against ending violence against children and child marriage in Zimbabwe. The campaign has so far gained 300 signatures.
“The petition is for everyone to join in and sign,” she added.
“It is of utmost importance that we get young people involved in these discussions because they are our future.
“If we get them understanding what they can do to help not only protect themselves, but also be aware of their potential then we would have done well in changing what our near future will look like in terms of the goals that we have set to stop child marriages and empower women.”
She added: “We want everybody doing their part in insuring that the girl child is safe and she is given opportunities to reach her full potential.
“So by signing a pledge people are consciously making that decision and taking responsibility for not only themselves, their own children but also all other girls and women in their societies.”
Selmor has also been on the ground meeting young people to understand how they deal with issues such as child marriages and the experience is driving her to do more.
“I was on a field visit with Unicef and Youth Advocate Zimbabwe last week in Chitungwiza I met with adolescents and young people – girls and boys – to discuss the issue of child marriage and the impact it has on the lives of many girls,” she said.
“I was inspired to hear the young people express their aspirations and dreams for their future and how they felt girls should be given the same chances in life as boys, and be protected against child marriage; it was inspiring for me to hear their messages, and it reminded me that while we try to make changes in our society for the better for girls, we need to consult girls and boys and listen to what they have to say to us, and involve them in the work we do and the campaigns we develop.
“I believe as musicians and public figures we are blessed with a voice that reaches further than some organisations can.
“We enjoy a certain amount of influence over people that we can take advantage of in order to achieve our goals.
“I hope that for as long as people still listen to my music, still follow me on social media, I will use that “power” to spread the message of a better tomorrow for our country and even the world at large through the empowerment of women.”