Tererai Trent dedicated so much of her life to empowering women through education that even Oprah Winfrey took notice. In 2011, Winfrey gave Trent $1.5 million to rebuild her school in partnership with the nonprofit organization Save the Children. Now New York City is set to pay its respects to Trent’s achievements, too.
Trent will be honored with a lifesize statue in the city on Aug. 26, Women's Equality Day, as part of the Statues for Equality project, in an effort to balance gender representation in public art, according to CNN. The champion for gender equality is one of 10 women nominated “most inspiring” by the public, including Winfrey, actress Nicole Kidman, primatologist Jane Goodall, and Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas –– and they will all be celebrated with statues across the US.
Growing up in poverty in rural Zimbabwe, Trent missed out on school as a young girl. Child marriage, responsibilities at home, early pregnancy, lack of access to water and sanitation, and gender-based violence are some of the barriers to education that 49 million girls who are out of primary and secondary school in sub-Saharan Africa face. Married by the age of 18 with three children, Trent’s husband abused her for wanting to receive an education. Despite her circumstances, Trent taught herself how to read and write, which opened the doors to promising opportunities.
When the non-profit organization Heifer International visited Trent’s village in 1998, it recognized Trent’s potential and she relocated to the US where she got a masters and doctorate degree, according to CNN. She then used her education to launch Tererai Trent International Foundation which has helped5,000 students in Zimbabwe attend school.
“Fathers and grandfathers saw, through her achievements, the importance of sending girls to school. And grandmothers, who had little to no schooling, would have others text Tererai to express their excitement at learning how to read along with their young grandchildren,” Burke said.
Artist couple Gillie and Marc Schattner, known for designing a massivebronze rhino sculpture in New York City, want to highlight more women like Trent in cities across the world. In New York City, less than 3% of statues are women, with Sydney and London right behind with 4% and 3% respectively, they point out on the Statues for Equality website. The couple is expanding the project internationally, to include Australia and the UK. People can nominate the next round of women statutes by using the hashtag #StatuesforEquality.
The Sculpted for Equal Rights intativie will help support New York City’s She Built NYC! to increase the number of representational states of women in New York City by 200%. Currently, only five of the city’s 150 statues depict nonfictional women. Statues for Equality believes that can change if citizens call on representatives to prioritize representation in public art that acknowledges women like Trent.
“As a champion of education, she has improved the learning and transformed the lives of the children in her village of Matau and surrounding communities for generations to come,” Burke said.