ICT empowered woman fights climate change, obesity Ms Rachel Mugoni with some of her outfits

Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent

For her, it started as a hobby as she would draw sketches that would flock her mind and put them aside.
At the time, she would help her mother, a crocheter and designer, to put pieces together as she had plans to pursue a different career in life.

After visiting her elder sister, Hope, around 2012, the two shared some ideas and she started seeing interesting Ankara designs. That is how her fashion designing journey started.

Ms Rachel Mugoni has since grown to become a jack of all trades and perhaps a master of all as witnessed by how she has managed to master everything she lays her hands on.

From tackling climate change through recycling waste material, to fitness training, Ms Mugoni relies heavily on Information Communication Technology (ICT) for the success story she shares and enjoys today.

A fashion designer and model popularly known as Vintage Rae, Ms Mugoni recently added another feather to her long list of talents as she has ventured into fitness.

Ms Mugoni gained popularity especially on social media platforms as she shared her pictures clad in vintage clothing designs and clothing made from waste hence the name Vintage Rae.

So fascinating is the fact that most of the ventures that give Ms Mugoni popularity, are underpinned to technological advancements like use of the internet, social media platforms and so on. From researching and posting pictures that went viral on social media, Ms Mugoni has been riding on the use of ICTs to promote her craft.

“I started designing around 2012 but then it was just drawing sketches and for a long time I was just thinking of designs and putting them on paper.

Then there was a time when I visited my sister and she showed me some interesting Ankara outfits she had bumped into and the rest is history,” she said.

The Kwekwe-based designer would buy Ankara fabric which she used to design her pieces.  “I didn’t have a sewing machine so I relied heavily on hand sewing.

From the fabric I would make bowties and the first one I sold for US$3 to a friend. From there, I never looked back and started hand making but would make small items and sell them to fashionistas in my circle,” she explained.

Her mother also played a key role and in no time, Ms Mugoni had enrolled at Chinhoyi University of Technology for an Arts degree.

“My mother has always been into crocheting and she perfected my skills. So, I became more of an accessory designer. The next thing my mother linked me with her tailor friend and we started putting those designs on fabric and we never looked back,” she said.

While at university, her friends would mock her plus size body and she decided to stand her ground as a plus size model.

Again, the pictures of the “thick” model went viral on social media platforms further expanding her territories of success.

Ms Rachel Mugoni with some of her outfits

Ms Mugoni’s creativity resulted in her becoming an environmentalist by default.
“Being in varsity, the desire to play around with my clothes and make them stylish resulted in me becoming a model and an environmentalist.

I would make clothes from waste and any other material that I would lay my hands on,” she said.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms Mugoni rocked social media platforms as pictures of her wearing designer clothes made from plastic containers, cans and other material went viral.

“The response I got during the Covid-19 period was overwhelming and it pushed me to do more. I actually discovered that I would help curb climate change by recycling waste into clothing.

I started doing more and more until I became an environmentalist by default,” she explained.
Due to limited traveling opportunities due to Covid-19 lockdowns, Ms Mugoni started using the little waste she would get after buying food, and recycled it into earrings, belts and other designer clothing.

Her weight would give her health problems and she ventured into fitness in a bid to reduce her body size.

“Being a fashion designer, I was also my own model and being a plus size model I became a body positivity activist. Unfortunately, I started experiencing health complications and I decided to become thick and fit instead of just being thick,” she said.

In September 2021, Ms Mugoni embarked on a fitness journey, one that would see her shed off some weight and keep fit.

“I embarked on a journey to shed weight and I started doing light jogs, long walks and of course dieting, limiting carbohydrates among other things,” she said.

Ms Mugoni has since created a fitness group where she assists other women on how to lose weight and stay fit.

“We now have a WhatsApp support group where you pay a fee to join. We give women fitness tips and other health tips on how to keep fit including dieting. Part of the schedule is our 21-day fitness challenge which we do at the beginning of every month.

It has yielded results I tell you,” she said.
Ms Mugoni has become a force to reckon with in the Kwekwe community, one who makes a living using ICT.

Hers is a true story of an empowered woman who can use digital technology for survival as well as fight other vices like obesity and climate change.

In a statement to commemorate International Women’s Day celebrated every March 8, Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) advocated for equal access to Information Communication Technology (ICT).

Held under the theme, “DigitALL innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”, the day seeks to bring to the fore the importance of ICT in empowering women and girls across the world.

“The Commission recognises that despite gains made, there still exists a gender gap in this arena of ICT. Women face many gender-based barriers to accessing technologies.

The commission expresses concern about the structural and systemic barriers preventing women and girls from being equipped with the resources, technology, knowledge, awareness and skills to leverage connectivity for their political, economic and social empowerment,” said the ZGC in the statement.

The commission advocated for the enactment of more laws and policies to ensure the safety of the space which has amplified the reach and impact of gender-based violence packaged in abusive online material. The commission said more should be done to accord rural women and girls the same opportunities.

“The commission calls upon the Government to increase women and girls’ access to and use of digital technology and ensure affordable access to ICTs to facilitate online education and training.

We also call upon stakeholders to ensure the enactment of legislation, develop policies and strengthen their implementations to prevent and eliminate the acts of technology facilitating gender-based violence,” said the commission.

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