Zimbabwe Protest singer organisation in semi -finals for Echoing Green fellow competition

Echoing Green foundation just announced that 350 incredible emerging social change organizations have been selected as semifinalists in their 2010 fellowship competition.  That said, Echoing Green staff and experienced evaluators who were inspired and encouraged by the ideas, passion and enthusiasm for social change captured in the applications they received have selected protest singer’s newly formed organization Zimbabwe Institute For Free Expression (ZIFFE) to advance to the second phase of their selection process for their 2010 Fellowship. Through a highly competitive selection process, Echoing Green identifies talented yet unproven social entrepreneurs who are dedicated to addressing the root causes of social problems.

According to Echoing Green website, this year, the  organization which was established in 1987 by the senior leadership of General Atlantic, LLC and The Atlantic Philanthropies (APS)received close to 1100 applications for social change ideas from nearly 70 countries around the world,.  Based on the initial submissions, the organization has invited the 350 projects to submit phase 2 applications, which is only around 30 percent of the total submissions.
“Being selected as a semifinalist is quite an accomplishment and we hope you are proud of reaching this stage of the competition” ,are the words received by Viomak as news that her organization has been selected for the semifinalists reached her.
From the selected 350 projects, the competition at this round is said to be “even more intense and competitive.”  After the vigorous phase two applications are reviewed, the Echoing Green will select approximately 30 applicants to go to New York City for in-person interviews, between  May 13-15th.  Of these applicants, up to 20 will be selected as 2010 fellows.
Echoing Green’s program supports visionary leaders and their innovative ideas for social change. The organization believes that taking risks up front is important because they believe that the next big idea for social change will come from a robust pipeline of new leaders with innovative, new solutions. To accelerate social change, Echoing Green invests in and supports outstanding emerging social entrepreneurs to launch new organizations that deliver bold, high-impact solutions. Through a two-year fellowship program, they help their network of visionaries develop new solutions to society’s most difficult problems. These social entrepreneurs and their organizations work to solve deeply-rooted social, environmental, economic, and political inequities to ensure equal access and to help all individuals reach their potential. To date, Echoing Green has invested over $28 million in seed funding to over 471 social entrepreneurs and their innovative organizations.
As Echoing Green continues to search the world for the next new idea that has the potential to create positive social change, Zimbabwe’s encouraging news is that Viomak’s project has found its way on the list of social entrepreneurs who have great ideas that play a vital role in fostering societal change. Zimbabwe is facing severe human rights abuses with no freedom of expression to talk about and organisations such as ZIFFE are desperately needed to initiate social change.
Echoing Green  does  not just provide funding, but it also assists their chosen social entrepreneurs achieve their maximum potential through a range of supportive ideas which  include contacts, advice and technical assistance. They view their fellows as investment partners, partners with whom they collaborate with as they build and grow their organizations and with whom they hope to have a long-term relationship.
If the educationist cum freedom of expression campaigner’s project  is selected in the final round the activist  will find herself in Zimbabwe educating on freedom of expression and  other human rights through her newly formed organization ZIFFE of which she will dedicate most of her time to the initiative. The protest singer whose music is banned in Zimbabwe is well known for using protest music as a tool for social change. Her organization aims to have Zimbabwe women produce music that helps to resolve the acute socio-cultural problems that they are facing.
Viomak who is also spearheading a campaign to have Zimbabwe MDC GNU leaders declare their personal assets to combat corruption has temporarily rested the campaign as she is currently in the studio working on her Happy 86th President R.G Mugabe(Supreme leader )music album officially out on 21 February 2010.
The innovative  activist is also currently  working on women music albums that highlight the problems encountered by Zimbabwean children (mainly girls) and women .Viomak who says  she was inspired by well known cartoonist Tony Namate to produce women music  albums says she will continue using music to educate on freedom of expression and women issues.  The Child abuse album comes at a crucial time when   Zimbabwe is experiencing a disturbing sharp rise in child abuse offences. The protest singer is convinced that the expected hit song Chibhebhenenga –Paedophile on the Child abuse album will be a great vehicle for social change. The first of its kind in Zimbabwe, the album is set to give the queen of Zimbabwe protest music another golden platform in the music industry.
The teacher by profession activist will through her organization ZIFFE initiate educational programs that will enlighten Zimbabweans on the need to understand and respect freedom of expression issues.  
“An organization that educates on freedom of expression coupled with the use of music as a tool for social change is new in Zimbabwe. Many people are fighting for democracy but they don’t seem to understand what it really entails and some don’t seem to understand the basics of freedom of expression .They need education.” She said.
On a similar mission Zimbabwean women’s lack of enthusiasm in social activism and their role in protest music is something that the organization will also educate on. The protest singer explained that other Zimbabwe women organizations work towards the eradication of all forms of women violence, but none has dealt with the issue of feminist protest music and freedom of expression, and yet women should commit themselves to speaking their mind on the socio-cultural and political aspects of life in Zimbabwe through music too.
Zimbabwe’s only woman protest singer cum activist recently formed the organization so that she can spearhead the need for freedom of expression which is hard to find in Zimbabweans’ lives. Laws like POSA (Public Order and Security Act) have been put in place to thwart freedom of expression politically. Generally Zimbabweans are not taught to express themselves so they suffer socially and politically.
The banned singer went on to explain that  in the midst of the Zimbabwean crisis, there is a wider creative arts progress taking place to mourn the death of democracy in a country crippled by human rights abuses. Art is moving into music to highlight these challenges in order to find solutions to these challenges. Women have remained silent yet they are the main sufferers. Zimbabwe Institute For Free Expression will educate citizens, especially women on how to free themselves from socio-cultural slavery and exercise their right to free expression thus engaging them in their struggles against political and socio-cultural repression.
Since 1987, Echoing Green has provided seed funding and support to more than 470 social entrepreneurs with bold ideas for social change in order to launch groundbreaking organizations around the world. Each year, they invest at least $1 million to help Echoing Green Fellows transform innovative ideas into action. By applying entrepreneurial principles to social sector investment, they help launch cutting-edge organizations that transform communities.
Available information mentions that echoing Green funding applicants are evaluated on some of the following criteria during the course of the selection process:
Applicant is an emerging social entrepreneur
Demonstrated entrepreneurial characteristics
Demonstrated leadership potential
Strong passion and commitment for the program area in which they plan to work
Intelligence and problem solving skills
Practical skills (e.g., strategic, organizational)
Personal integrity
Applicant’s plan will result in a sustainable organization:
Clear and compelling mission and objectives
Sound strategy and plan for program development and delivery
Plan for evaluating success and performance
Plan for financial sustainability and growth
Existing support network
Applicant can clearly articulate their vision for social change
Seriousness of the social problem they will address
According to one of the organisation’s beliefs, throughout history breakthrough ideas and social change tend to come from the margins of society.
Moving forward, Viomak intends to set up an education centre or educational places where she will take a leading role in educating on protest music activism, freedom of expression, other human rights issues and cultural development.
“No social change education can be adequate in which protest music is neglected.” She said.