Martha Chikwama, one of the Somo Sisters, is a social work student who is passionate about giving back to her community. In this blog post, we will introduce you to her and her story.
Martha Chikwama, who participated in our Somo Sisters Oral Histories Project, is a social work student who is passionate about giving back to her community, both here in Liverpool and back in her homeland of Zimbabwe. In this blog post, we will introduce you to her and her story.
The Somo Sisters Oral Histories Project was made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We at WODIN are so thankful to have been enabled to deliver this project.
Last year, Martha signed up to be a Somo Sister, which was no easy undertaking. The Somo Sisters, who are all Black immigrant women, were recorded recounting their life stories and the cultural observations they made when journeying from their home country to settle in Liverpool. By agreeing to be Somo Sisters, these women were designating themselves leaders of the next generation, as their stories would be archived in audio form in the Liverpool Central Library, for their children, their grandchildren, and so on, to learn from. Those stories were also written down in the Somo Sisters Tapestry book.
Who is Martha Chikwama?
Martha is from Zimbabwe, which was formerly known as Rhodesia. She first arrived in the UK in 2001 with her former husband, excited at the prospect of greener pastures. The reality of life in the UK was more complicated: there are parts of life in England that Martha prefers, and equally there are cultural aspects that she misses from her homeland. She loves how multicultural the UK is, but misses the sense of community — of neighbours talking to each other — that existed in Zimbabwe. She notes that everything happens so fast in the UK, whereas back home, things were laid back and nobody was in a hurry. She’s not a fan of the patriarchal culture in Zimbabwe, but she also wishes that young people in the UK practiced more respect for their elders.
Martha spent her first 8 years in the UK in London, but in 2009, she moved to Liverpool for a fresh start after her divorce. She found Liverpool to be a welcome reprieve from the stressful, hurried bustle of London, and so she settled here as her new home.
In her chapter in the Somo Sisters Tapestry, Martha speaks out about the employment discrimination she’s faced while living in England. “I didn’t know I was black till I came to Europe,” she writes, explaining how, in England, she faced the assumption that Black people are lazy and less reliable or skilled as employees. She has had to work multiple undesirable jobs after failing to find employment elsewhere. In her words, Black people in the UK must work harder than their white counterparts in order to get by and pursue their desired careers.
Martha still keeps Zimbabwean traditions and culture running strong throughout her household, by cooking food from back home, and dancing to Zimbabwean music. But she’s also picked and chosen elements of British culture to incorporate into her routine, like a weekly Sunday roast.
Martha often returns to a sentiment taught to her by her mother: “Be kind to others because kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle.” Martha’s kindness and empathy makes her perfect for her current training in social work. In the future, she dreams of opening an orphanage back in Zimbabwe, to give back to the community that raised her.
Hear more from Martha Chikwama…
Martha’s full story is now archived in audio form in the Liverpool Central Library. We encourage you to visit and listen to all the fascinating things she has to say about her life journey.
Alternatively, you can read her story in her own words in the Somo Sisters Tapestry book, which is available on Amazon at this link.
Listen to clips from Martha Chikwama’s story
Liverpool is laid back
Highest highs in the UK
Experience with racial differences