WITH the support of kind-hearted people in the North-East, a woman is attempting to transform the lives of girls and women in her African village.

Locardia Chidanyika grew up in poverty-stricken Bindura, a small town in the Mazowe Valley, Zimbabwe.

Her experiences as a destitute girl growing up in Africa are worlds away from the lives her own children now live in Darlington.

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Many home comforts taken for granted in the UK were absent from Ms Chidanyika’s formative years. With just one pair of shoes she wore to church, as a youngster Ms Chidanyika went barefoot for the majority of her childhood and, in common with the majority of her peers, her family struggled to afford clothes. Household items including bathtubs, Hoovers and washing machines were among the items unfamiliar to her when she moved to the UK in 2001.

One of her most vivid memories of her youth is of when she started her period, aged nine. Her mother, like many women in Africa – and in the UK, where so-called ‘period poverty’ is growing – was unable to afford sanitary products and Ms Chidanyika was forced to use leaves and rags to manage her menstrual flow.

Girls and women in her hometown are still suffering as she did and as such, the 39-year-old is now appealing for help as she attempts to collect as many donations of sanitary items as possible to take to Africa.

Ms Chidanyika, who recently launched Women Today – a North-East network that aims to empower black African women – travels back to her town regularly to distribute clothes and other items, including sanitary products, to those still living in poverty.

She said: “I find it difficult with my own children to see them throw anything away because they were born in the UK and do not understand how I grew up.

“When I came to the UK, I was very privileged and my position now is to help other women and girls to transform their lives.

“I grew up with no shoes, clothes or sanitary items and I know that is still happening and other young girls are really, really struggling.

"If I can change just one or two of their lives, then at least I am changing something and they can go on to change someone else’s life.

“I will hand out everything that is collected in my village and will video it so that those who have helped can see the difference they are making.”

Items can be dropped off with Ms Chidanyika at her office at 1, Blackwell Lane, Darlington.

For more information about the collection or about Women Today, call 01325 954527.