Connecting People to Opportunities – NODUMO NCOMANZI

  • PublishedApril 11, 2019

Nodumo identifies herself as an educator. Having gone to the prestigious Yale University in the United States on full scholarship, she felt that other people, especially from her home country Zimbabwe could benefit from the academic resources abroad just like she did. Having interned at the US Embassy in Zimbabwe where she got the chance to apply to Yale, she realised that there was a gap that needed to be filled.

This prompted her to start an informal educational consultancy in 2012 to enable bright students to access great educational opportunities in internationally renowned universities in the US. She then started mentoring other students and guiding them through the application process.

While working with the students, she realised that there was a problem when it came to writing application essays as the students found it hard to express themselves in English while still staying true to themselves. She then started training them on how to package themselves in order to maximise their chances of being selected.

“The American university application process is very rigorous and thorough so it was important for them to have someone to guide them so that they didn’t miss out on these opportunities. There was a lack of knowledge on how to apply, how to package themselves and the expectations. This is where I come in as it is an area that I have specialised in,” she explains.

In 2016, she officially got her first job in educational consultancy in China. Nodumo has continued to work in the same field in Kenya and the US where she recently graduated with a degree in political science and African studies.

Elevating emerging creatives

While working to help students package and brand themselves, she discovered that young emerging creatives in Africa also lacked guidance on the same. The result of this was that they missed out on opportunities such as grants, funding and collaborations, which could elevate their craft and help them make a decent living from it.

A creative herself, she sought to change this. “I stumbled into brand identity and strategy accidentally. While in New York, I got into the creative side projects, which led me to work in the New York Fashion Week. I discovered that a lot of creatives didn’t have direction in terms of strategy. Towards the end of 2017, I started a small creative consultancy firm to address the issue,” says the fashion enthusiast.

“The creative industry in the continent is still mostly driven by Instagram and word of mouth, which is how I mostly get my clients. Once they choose to work with me or I want to work with them, it’s just a matter of figuring out what they need to get to the next opportunity,” adds the 26-year-old.

As a brand identity strategist, her work revolves around refining the languages that the creatives use to brand themselves in their résumés, on their LinkedIn profiles, on proposals or on applications for training programmes.

“I help them interpret what they do creatively into something that is more professionally packaged to appeal to those in control of the opportunities that they want, for instance, NGOs,” she notes.
Although she works with all types of creatives, she is especially keen on working with visual artists (painters, sculptors, filmmakers) as she realised that it is an art form that is not truly appreciated in Africa.

Aside from that, Nodumo, who is also a fashion stylist, is also keen on changing the fact that the fashion industry in Africa is exclusive and exclusionary. “I have a deep interest in fashion and I’d like to see the industry open up for as many people as possible,” she notes.

Climb for albinism

As for her role as an activist, Nodumo admits that this was something that she intentionally set out to do. “I was privileged that I had a supportive family, which I am aware is not what most persons with albinism can say of themselves. It is important to me that I check my privilege because I was lucky that even though I was bullied, none of it translated into violence. It got to a point that I decided I had to actively involve myself in championing for people with albinism to go for what they want,” she recounts.

While her other roles may not be as popular especially here in Kenya, Nodumo’s activism for persons with albinism is very notable. In fact, together with activist Jane Waithera, she organised a hike to the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro as a global awareness campaign.
Dubbed ‘Climb for Albinism’, the goal was to have a team of six African women with albinism summit Mt Kilimanjaro to its Uhuru Peak, which is the highest point in the continent, to challenge the stigma associated with albinism.

The team of six women together with fitness and health specialists, met for the first time in Nairobi in September 2018, after which the ladies climbed Mt Kenya in preparation for the daunting task ahead.

On Monday October 8, 2018, Nodumo represented her team at the summit as the rest had to reluctantly turn back at various stages due to health reasons. “When I got to the peak, I fully understood the weight of what we had accomplished and it was so overwhelming. The challenges we encountered during the climb were symbolic of the challenges persons with albinism go through in their everyday lives,” she shares.

Primarily, what Nodumo wants people to take from the climb is that persons with albinism deserve equal opportunities, respect and dignity.

“Conquering Mt Kilimanjaro was important for us because we wanted to show the world that despite the hardships we face being women with albinism in Africa, we are capable, powerful and can do anything so that others can do the same. It is important that we change the narrative that persons with albinism are weak or incapable. Amplifying our voices from that peak was, to speak, not just for ourselves, but for future generations of persons with albinism,” she adds.

For Nodumo, this is something she plans to do for the long haul so that children born with albinism do not have to go through the challenges persons with albinism currently go through. She also urges the government to do more to support awareness programmes within the school curriculum.

“It is unfair and unfortunate that persons with albinism have to go through something as overwhelming as climbing a mountain to get respect, which they should be accorded just like everyone else. As for the government, having a two-week albinism awareness programme added to the curriculum is not that hard, is it?” she poses.

Despite the hurdles, Nodumo is hopeful that the climb can prove to persons with albinism that they can independently challenge themselves to be more and better than the misconceptions piled on them by their communities, the media and more.

To help even more people, Nodumo is merging all her roles to ensure that she can help as many people as possible in the creative consultancy space, in education and certainly persons with albinism. She especially challenges people with albinism to boldly reach for opportunities.

“There’s really no better way to say it than ‘just do it’. Apply for opportunities, put yourself out there. Albinism should not limit anyone from achieving their dreams. I hope someday to work with someone with albinism where, with my guidance, they successfully throw their name in the ring for an opportunity and succeed. When that day comes, it will be worthwhile. I want to contribute to helping people harness their full potential,” she says in conclusion.

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