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Filed under : Africa, Lifestyle

As we draw to the end of 2011, my heart reaches out to all those who are going through the holiday season without their loved ones. I lost my mother, Elizabeth Chanakira, to cancer nearly a year ago on 23 December 2010.

I don’t think I will ever stop grieving for my mother, but how I choose to do it is the most significant to me.

In using my pain to positively impact others whose experiences I relate to, I founded the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust in Zimbabwe in May 2011. The ECCT raises awareness of cancer among the population; raises awareness of Natural Health & Fitness as a way of reducing cancer and fundraises for disadvantaged Zimbabwean cancer sufferers.

One of our inspirations in life is the way others’ actions impact positively on our world. There are countless people in the world who have made a positive impact to 2011 in numerous ways and it’s impossible to list them all.

Below are some celebrity women who have been particularly inspirational this year and have taught us the value of being courageous, no matter how bleak the circumstances may appear… 

There is always hope.


Wangari Maathi was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. She passed away in 2011 after battling ovarian cancer. She had numerous accomplishments, including founding the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organisation focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation and women’s rights. She was also the first women to receive the Nobel Peace Prize  for “her contribution to sustainable development democracy and peace”.

Out of all of her numerous achievements, the Green Belt Movement is powerfully positive as it has incorporated her love of protecting our environment (for example, combating deforestation), with economic empowerment for women through generating income for them through training in forestry and other related areas.



Giuliana Rancic is an E! News presenter, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011. Recently, she announced that she will undergo a double mastectomy (removal of both her breasts) after doctors failed to ‘clear the cancer’ following her initial surgery. With her husband, Bill by her side, she appeared on America’s ‘The Today Show’  a week ago to announce her brave decision to the world.

What is inspiring is how strong Giuliana is despite having a huge part of her femininity being taken from her due to this illness. She is a pillar of hope and encouragement as she decided to come forward publicly so that other women can be encouraged to check their breasts regularly and take their health seriously.



Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier in 2011. This followed a firmer commitment from the Government of Zimbabwe to invest in more facilities for those already diagnosed with breast cancer; including upgrading of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and pathology services.

Deputy Prime Minister Khupe subsequently pioneered the opening of a new Breast Cancer Clinic and state-of-the-art mammographic screening equipment at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare, Zimbabwe in October 2011.

It is inspiring that through her painful personal experience, she saw it fit to commence the introduction of much-needed improved cancer services to the country and at a time so close to her diagnosis.




Pop Princess Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer approximately five years ago. Since her diagnosis, she has done plenty of work to help other women by raising awareness of breast cancer and supported several related charities such as The McGrath Foundation; Wellbeing of Women and the Breast Cancer Campaign.

In October 2011, she  was made an honorary Doctor of Health Sciences by Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, southern England for her work in raising awareness of breast cancer. When she received the award she stated that her diagnosis made her “appreciate at first hand the hard work that goes on to support patients through (cancer).”

It is inspiring that she used her pain and personal experience to raise awareness of the disease, the importance of breast screening and other factors, thus playing a part in saving the lives of countless other women.

Amai Elizabeth Chanakira (1943 – 2010)

Mama, as we approach Christmas, I want you to know that not a single day goes by that I don’t think of you. The pain of losing you is always there, but is made better knowing that your spirit will live on in the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust. And through its work, touch the lives of many” – Teurai Chanakira

These women are a small example of testimony to the fact that even through painful personal circumstances, one can give hope and encouragement to others.  To serve others in one form or another is what makes us human and we salute not only these women, but countless men and women all over the globe who have inspired us in 2011.


Happy holidays!!


*Pic sources: Green Belt Movement, Getty Images, Faraitoday, Central Park Gossip


Writer, Model, Founder of Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust

Teurai Chanakira – who has written posts on Farai Today.

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