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Redefining Resilience: Stories of Strength Unveiled

In the pages of “The Woman Changing the World,” Iris Mhlanga emerges as a beacon of global change, driven by a relentless commitment to empowerment and advocacy. As the visionary behind the “Nozizwe Mother of Nations Trust,” Iris channels her passion into tangible impact, uplifting vulnerable communities in Zimbabwe. Beyond philanthropy, her expertise as a pharmacologist and co-owner of a family business paints a picture of resilience and versatility. From guiding travelers through African landscapes to delving into mental health counseling studies, Iris’s journey is a tapestry of compassion and innovation. Her leadership shines as a catalyst for positive cultural transformation, echoing through organizations and communities alike. With every endeavor, Iris Mhlanga’s legacy of resilience and compassion paves the way for a brighter, more inclusive world.

What inspired you to co-author the book ”  Women Making A Difference” and how does it align with your vision for global impact?

I had just been nominated for the Women Changing the World awards and whilst I was still trying to wrap my head around this award, I received an invitation to co-author Women Making a Difference, i didn’t know what to write about, all I had was the title of the book, so I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to tell the world my story, the story of how and why I started my organisation and the journey that followed. Women Making a Difference aligns with my vision in that it will inspire others to start something and flow with it as I did and make a huge impact in the service of others, it’s not about me, it’s about inspiring the next person to dream big and reach for the stars.

Can you elaborate on the mission and initiatives of the “Nozizwe Mother of Nations Trust” founded by you, and how it serves underprivileged communities in Zimbabwe?

The Nozizwe Mother of Nations Trust is a social impact organisation that seeks to empower and enable vulnerable communities to look within and find the courage to overcome challenges at the same time uplifting others to live a brighter, more educated, and sustainable livelihood. Since 2018 we have managed to provide access to clean safe drinking water to thousands in vulnerable communities, we have reached out to the poorest of the poor and empowered them to start community gardens, which feed them and also earn them a living, allowing them to take care of future generations thereby lifting others as they grow too, and, we have partnered with amazing people around the world to provide meals to 1200 vulnerable children per day. the nutrition programmes are a hit and sometimes on special occasions we have treats for all the children we feed, we have also joined forces with medical personnel in various spheres to provide free health care and checks to those that need it most. education is definitely on our list as well, we sponsor tuition for over 1200 orphans who can not afford it, and with the little we have we manage to send them to school up to 7th grade, we have one visually impaired student who is in high school and seeing her go through to high school has been my greatest joy. we also try and assist differently-abled communities by providing assistive mobility devices and repairing them where possible, buying assistive mobility devices is very costly and out of reach for many.

As a pharmacologist and co-owner of a family business, how do you balance your professional roles in healthcare and entrepreneurship?

Our Father died in 2016 so since then his firm of Lawyers has taken over managing the family business and all the legalities of change of ownership, to my siblings and myself, with that in place it makes it easier for my siblings and me to pursue our interests and dreams whilst we await the finalisation of the Estate, we all had our various vocations and our father never forced us to follow in his business dreams, so now after his death, we will all find a way to integrate the business into our daily lives, for me, in particular, it’s slightly different as my father was the caretaker of the clan that position has fallen into my lap in a way as I now take care of so many. my middle name is Nozizwe it means (Mother of Nations) its a name I have embraced as I grew older, my training in healthcare has come in handy in the process of running the Nozizwe Trust, I can take care of  almost anything health related without having to outsource, unless a health concern is beyond my scope of capabilities.

Could you share your experience working in the travel and tourism industry, and how it contributes to your diverse skill set and interests?

I worked at a newspaper when I left high school, I was trying to raise money for medical school in the UK, and my late mother made me learn to work and earn my own money from a young age, whilst working as a PA at the newspaper, my then boss was promoted and made editor of the paper, he taught me the ins and outs about the newspaper business and I then started writing blogs in the travel  sphere and medical spheres and eventually I landed a consultancy with travel and tour company in Tanzania, whilst still working as a blogger  after leaving the newspaper to further my studies and start a family, travel and tourism earned me a salary which I used to pursue my original dream of being in the medical field, till this day I still earn from all that and continue to change lives.

What motivated you to pursue studies in mental health counselling, particularly focusing on suicide prevention and substance abuse?

Three years into serving vulnerable communities I ended up in a community, where there were a lot of unspeakable acts, drug addiction, incest, rape, and suicides, one incident landed my team and me in trauma counselling, and we were traumatised by the whole experience and I decided then and there to get further training to assist all these thousands of people looking at me to help them, I always felt that if I can learn and excel in a particular field it would be medicine and I could save money again without the need to outsource, a trait I inherited from my late dad Jonathan Temba Mhlanga, I was never really gifted in science but I was blessed with a photographic memory which helped me breeze through medical training in any subject.

How does your educational background in mental health counselling inform your approach to philanthropy and community service?

My background helps me respond appropriately and with compassion without making individuals in vulnerable communities feel worse,  being a mother comes naturally to me but the educational know-how gained me many more technical skills on how to respond and resolve situations effectively.

In what ways have you demonstrated global impact and leadership across various sectors, and what specific examples highlight your commitment to positive cultural change?

My leadership skills have sharpened and improved over the years its a continual learning cycle for me, it also made me grow as an individual and come out of my shell as it were, I have always been one to work quietly in the background, but now as a leader of a charity and a matriarch of families, I have gained the confidence to lead from the forefront, something that was always done by men in my family is now on my shoulders to lead the way, I have embraced this its been enlightening and emotionally fulfilling journey.

How does your journey embody resilience, compassion, and a dedication to improving the world, and what lessons can others learn from your legacy?

My journey has taken me full circle, from my own experiences being a mother of a son who had a treatable disability, to living in a shelter for abused women in a foreign land to living with differently abled children seeking medical treatment, the experiences have taught me a lot and grown me as an individual, my daughter lapsed into a diabetic coma, one year after we started the charity, that experience taught me the balance in scales, to care for my own whilst still caring for virtual strangers who also considered me their mother, I also learned to forgive from my previous experiences I realised I had carried a lot of baggage and resentment, I told my self that if I am to make a change in the world I should be and embody the change I want to see in the world.

I would like to encourage others to be brave, bold, not arrogant, and have love for their fellow man, I am a mother of many and mothering comes easily to me but so much can be learned from my experiences and passed on to future generations, A mother and father cares for their children, however which way we choose to do that ultimately impacts future generations and how we relate to vulnerable communities and all others alike, we should strive to treat everyone the same.

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