May 23, 2022
Denied a high school education because she was a girl, Greater Taremeredzwa Nhiwatiwa spent her teen years scaring baboons out of her family’s maize fields in rural Maswera Village, northeast of Mutare in Manicaland, Zimbabwe.
Later, a guerrilla war forced her to seek refuge in Botswana.
Against all odds, however, Greater became a nurse and married Eben Nhiwatiwa, who was elected a United Methodist bishop in 2004. Today, he is assigned to the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area and she leads the United Methodist women’s organization in Zimbabwe.
Her most recent accomplishment is writing a book, “Reflections on My Life and Faith Journey as an African Bishop’s Spouse.”
“It is a common experience in the African context,” she wrote, “that … people of my generation faced numerous challenges in their educational pursuit. Prominent among those challenges is that, more often than not, parents could not afford to educate their children because of a lack of resources. I am one of those who faced such obstacles.”
After Greater finished Form 2 at Mutambara United Methodist Mission, her father said he could no longer support her education.
“To make matters worse,” she said, “my father concluded that the little education I had already acquired was enough for a girl child. That gender discrimination affected me very much.
“I had never worn a pair of shoes until I started Form 1. What can I say about holding a book in my hands to read! That was a rare privilege that I only started to enjoy in high school. At that point, we were able to read textbooks which were left in the classroom.
“Faced with a bleak future,” Greater Nhiwatiwa continued, “I prayed to my God, and he answered me. Today I am who I am because of answered prayers.”
She wrote the book to chronicle her difficult journey. “It is a story of faith,” she said. “I am convinced that God intervened and answered my prayers. As the Bible teaches, with God, nothing is impossible.”
Nhiwatiwa expressed hope that her book would encourage women of all ages to pursue their goals, despite challenges. “My motto is, ‘Forward ever, backward never.’ Refuse to quit or give up,” she said.
Bishop Nhiwatiwa said he has been inspired by her dedication to the project.
“When Mrs. Nhiwatiwa hinted to me that she wanted to write a book,” he recalled, “I suppressed the temptation of discouraging her. I thank God for helping me keep the doubts to myself.
“Greater is an adventurous and determined person,” he said. “Her determination, focus, perseverance and discipline coalesced to prevent her to look back from her course of action. At one point, she surprised me when she changed her course of study from nursing to a degree in industrial hygiene at Illinois State University.”
After completing her studies in the U.S., Greater Nhiwatiwa returned to Zimbabwe and forged a career path for women in industrial hygiene — ensuring occupational health and safety in workplaces.
Bennenia Chesa, who worked closely with Nhiwatiwa in the Zimbabwe East Conference for 15 years, described her as “a leader who leads from the front, a teacher, a team player, a motivator and a goal-oriented individual who believes in the power of prayer.”
Her book, Bennenia said, spells out her journey “in very simple terminology that leaves the reader with a burning desire to pick up pieces of discarded dreams and talents that had long been thrown into trash cans and turn them into reality. Prayer has always been her weapon. When in a difficult situation, she remained steadfast in the Lord.”