Thirty-year-old Mutsa Majero has been living in the US for the past 14 years. She is the author of “Meet Chipo”, a children’s book. Mutsa is a licenced Mental Health Therapist and holds a Masters in Counselling Psychology. She took time off in June 2016 to finish her Ph.D. in International Psychology, as well as self-publish “Meet Chipo” and other children’s books. She is the brains behind Zim.Babe.Iwe! an online platform for empowering women and girls as well as promoting literacy.
Mutsa has a passion for working with children and as a Mental Health Therapist, she has worked with children and adolescents for the past six years building their esteem and resilience to get through difficult times in their lives.
What is Zim.Babe.Iwe! all about and why the name?
The name is inspired by two things, my love for Zimbabwe and for women. It’s a play on Zimbabwe with an emphasis on “babe” or women. It’s a brand created to promote literacy and women empowerment. “Meet Chipo” was published under Zim.Babe.Iwe! and at the moment I am looking forward to highlighting Zimbabwean women who are creating waves all around the world and doing big things.
That is where the Iwe! comes in, it’s women who have people’s heads turning and doing big things and have people saying, “Iwe!”
Why did you decide to start a series of children’s books?
I always knew I wanted to write a book but felt like I didn’t have the time, until one day I just decided to do it. My love for education, reading, Zimbabwe and young girls also built on this decision. Growing up my parents put a lot of emphasis on reading and for that to continue and for me to pass it on, a children’s book was ideal and I knew a lot of people would be inspired to read.
I wanted Zimbabwean children and non-Zimbabwean children growing up in the Diaspora to have a feel of life in Zimbabwe and therefore connect with it. And for children in Zimbabwe to relate to Chipo and some of the things she goes through in the Diaspora.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A lot is from my experience as a child growing up in Zimbabwe, those were the best days of my life. Some came from my fathers’ experience as a child -he grew up in rural Zimbabwe like Chipo did.
So it was bringing out those different experiences and fun aspects of Zimbabwean culture.
How has the journey to self-publishing been like for you?
It was really challenging getting someone to publish “Meet Chipo”, so I sat on it since 2010 until I decided to take it in my own hands, and discovered I could self-publish.
The self-publishing process started in 2014 when I got an illustrator to draw exactly what I was looking for, for the book. It has been a long journey, but I am glad I self-published and did not go any other way.
What can you tell other writers about self-publishing?
It is important to do your research and to do it early, figure out what works best for you as a writer.
There are many companies that one can go to for self-publishing. Talk to other people who have done it before and find out their experiences and some do’s and don’ts.
What major start-up challenges did you face?
Self-publishing is expensive therefore one has to have some sort of financial stability especially when publishing a children’s book where there are illustrations and a lot of pictures included. And so I encourage women to save because you never know what financial endeavour you may want to start in the future.
Another challenge was trying to figure out where I fit in the children’s books world because there are a lot of them. But I think my book stands out in that it is multi-cultural and talks about life in two different cultures. It’s educational as well as fun. I encourage other writers to scan the market to see where they fit in and how they can stand out.
Tweet: Self-publishing is expensive therefore one has to have some sort of financial stability
How has the market responded to your book?
People have actually really loved it because it has taught them about some aspects of the Zimbabwean culture. Many people can relate to resettling, and therefore this book is easy to relate to.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a black African woman living abroad?
People have pre- conceived notions of how an African should be, talk, or look like.
These kinds of assumptions used to frustrate me before, but I now take it as an opportunity to teach people about Africa, and more importantly, about Zimbabwe.
Which African woman has had the strongest influence on you?
Definitely my mother. She embodies a lot of what African women are known for, hard work, selflessness, she is inspirational not just to myself but to people around her.
Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. She once said, “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower and to humanise. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity”
I resonated a lot with that because as an immigrant in America, it is important to be inspired and stay inspired because it is easy to be swallowed up and almost lose yourself to the culture you have migrated to. Not that there is anything wrong with acculturation, but I do think that it’s important to recognise and maintain your heritage.Therefore the stories we tell continue to empower and humanise people. I love her books and a lot of what she stands for.
Danai Gurira is a strong Zimbabwean Woman who emphasises on telling stories for us by us. I love her empowering of the African woman.
What is your long-term vision for Meet Chipo?
Making my book more accessible to the Zimbabwean market. It is currently available on my website where I can personalise and autograph orders, and on Amazon.
There is also going to be at least four more books to come on the Meet Chipo series, and from there, I will look to expanding the other characters within the book.
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