As a young girl in rural Zimbabwe, Tererai Trent lived without running water and electricity and had no hope for her future. “I remember very well my father pointing to my brothers and the other boys in the village and saying: ‘These are the breadwinners of tomorrow. We need to educate them. We need to send them to school. The girls will get married,'” she says. “And that was just a painful experience for me.”
Tererai attended only two terms before she was forced to marry at age 11. By age 18, she was the mother of three….
In 1991, a visitor changed Tererai’s life forever. Jo Luck, from Heifer International, asked every woman about her greatest dream—something many of them didn’t know they were allowed to have. “I remember very clearly saying: ‘My name is Tererai, and I want to go to America to have an education, and I want to have a BS degree. I want to have a master’s, and I want to have a PhD,” she says. “And she just looked at me [and said], ‘If you desire those things, it is achievable.'”
Hoping her daughter could break the cycle of poverty, Tererai’s mother encouraged her to write her dreams on a piece of paper. The 20-year-old placed them in a scrap of tin and buried them under a rock in the pasture where she used to herd cattle. “As a woman without an education, life will continue to be a burden,” she wrote. “I truly believe in these dreams, and I hope one day to work for the causes of women and girls in poverty.”