Tererai Trent, PhD
Founder, Tinogona Foundation
Tererai Trent, PhD, is one of today’s most internationally recognized voices for quality education and women’s empowerment. She is a scholar, humanitarian, motivational speaker, educator, mentor, and founder of the Tinogona Foundation.
Dr. Trent grew up in a cattleherding family in rural Zimbabwe, where cultural practices charted the course of her life. She was forbidden to attend school, but she managed to teach herself reading and writing from her brother’s schoolbooks and pursued learning even when she became a mother of three children by age 18.
In 1989, Jo Luck, CEO of Heifer International, visited Dr. Trent’s village and asked every woman what her greatest dreams were as she told them, “If you believe in your dreams, they are achievable.” Dr. Trent wrote down five dreams on a scrap of paper: go to America; achieve a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degree; and give back to her community. She sealed the paper in a tin can and buried it under a rock.
In 1998, she moved to Oklahoma with her husband and children. There she earned her Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education and master’s degree in plant pathology from Oklahoma State University. In 2003, she received her master’s degree in public health from the University of California–Berkeley. Upon moving to Michigan to pursue her doctorate in interdisciplinary evaluation from Western Michigan University, she devised a thesis looking at HIV/AIDS prevention programs for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa.
After accomplishing all her academic aspirations, Dr. Trent was ready to achieve her final dream. She founded the Tinogona Foundation to help build schools in rural Zimbabwe and introduce access to quality education for thousands of girls and boys.
To date, the foundation has helped nearly 4,000 children.
When Dr. Trent spoke on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Winfrey named Dr. Trent her “favorite guest ever” and donated 1.5 million dollars in her honor to rebuild the Matau Primary School in Dr. Trent’s home village. Her life story has been featured in the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. She has been interviewed by countless media outlets, including Newsweek & The Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit, CNBC Africa, and O magazine in South Africa. Dr. Trent’s upcoming book, The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can, is set for a fall 2014 release.
Dr. Trent embodies Loyola’s Jesuit mission in her strong faith, commitment to justice, and belief that all people on Earth are interconnected. In her native Shona language, “tinogona” means “it is achievable.” Increased access to education, she believes, will motivate communities and children to see the value of education, so they can carry that power forward for future generations.