“The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can” – Who is Tererai Trent and What Can You Learn From Her?
Updated: Jul 17
You can make your dreams a reality no matter your current circumstances. The amazing Tererai Trent offers a perfect example.
There are so many ways for women to empower themselves and each other. Though there are always obstacles to face in life, there are also amazing women who can inspire us to do more.
These women show us that anything is possible as long as we have the determination and resolve to keep pushing. There may be times when you feel like your dreams are too far out of reach.
But they’re not.
If you keep pushing, you can achieve more than you ever thought possible.
And any time that you start to doubt this fact, just think of Tererai Trent.
It would have been so easy for Tererai Trent to become one of the thousands of forgotten women. Her upbringing was not one that empowered her to achieve more.
And yet she now stands as a doctor in her field. Plus, she happens to be Oprah Winfrey’s favourite ever guest.
Tererai is an inspiration to any woman who feels left behind. This is her story and the amazing lessons that you can learn from her.
Who Is Tererai Trent?
The fact that we even know the name Tererai Trent is a testament to this woman’s remarkable strength.
Born sometime in 1965 – she doesn’t know her actual birthdate – Tererai spent her early years in rural Zimbabwe. Like many young girls in disadvantaged countries, she had very little schooling. A couple of years in elementary school left her undereducated and vulnerable.
At age 11, Tererai’s father married her to a much older man. Before she was even old enough to fully understand what marriage was, she found herself in a forced relationship.
She had four children by the time she was 18 years old.
During this time Tererai withstood beatings and it appeared life would have little more to offer her.
She’d become another forgotten woman among the millions of others in Africa.
A little over a decade later, Tererai’s life began to change. The arrival of an aid group called Heifer International to her village allowed Tererai to see an empowered woman in action. Jo Luck, who was the leader of the group, spoke to the women in the village about standing up and following their dreams.
While pregnant with her fifth child, Tererai stood and listened to what Jo had to say.
Jo asked Tererai one question:
What are your dreams?
That was a question that hadn’t even occurred to Tererai before. She says that she didn’t even know that she could have dreams for something more as a black woman in Africa.
Inspired, Tererai began to think about her education. She had always wanted to become educated as she saw it as a pathway out of poverty. And she told Jo that she had four dreams:
Travel to America.
Earn a Bachelor’s degree.
Earn a Master’s degree.
Earn a doctorate.
Later, Tererai spoke to her mother about the conversation. At this time, Tererai’s eldest child was nine years old.
Tererai did not want to hand over the baton of poverty and illiteracy to her child. She did not want her to follow the same path that Tererai and generations of women in her family had followed.
Tererai’s mother told her to write down her dreams and bury them to see them grow.
That was her turning point.
It took Tererai eight years to earn her high school diploma. She failed several times but she would not allow this to discourage her.
She kept pushing and would not give up.
In 1998, her entire community banded together to send her to America. Tererai earned her degrees and achieved every single one of her goals.
Today, she has a fifth goal – to give back to the community so she can inspire other African women to follow in her footsteps.
What You Can Learn from Tererai’s Story
Tererai Trent is a true inspiration to the millions of women who may not believe that they can be more.
Here are four important lessons you can take from her story.
Lesson #1 – Dream Bigger Than Your Circumstances
Tererai had to fight for every scrap of education that she received. She even stole her brother’s homework so that she could teach herself how to read and write.
Reaching the pinnacle of a scholastic career did not seem an achievable goal for her. She didn’t even have a high school education when she wrote down her dream of earning a doctorate.
Tererai dreamed much bigger than her circumstances suggested she could. It’s likely that she didn’t even know what doors a university education could open for her.
But she knew that education was her pathway out of poverty.
There’s an important lesson here. Your circumstances don’t dictate the size of your dreams. Don’t allow your life right now to place limits on what you can achieve in the future.
If you can dream it, you can achieve it.
Lesson #2 – Every Woman Has Great Potential
In his book It Happened on the Way to War, Rye Barcott coined an important phrase:
“Talent is universal. Opportunity is not.”
You need only look at what Tererai Trent has achieved to see how true that is. As a young woman, she always held great potential.
Tererai had talent without opportunity. And because of that, she seemed destined for the same life that generations of women in her life had led.
Thankfully, opportunity came knocking for Tererai when she least expected it. And now, she’s finally fulfilled her potential.
Unfortunately, millions of other women may never receive the opportunity to display their talents.
This is where the message of doing what you can to empower other women becomes so important. If you have had the opportunities that so many get denied, do what you can to help others.
That’s what Tererai does now. She tells her story and highlights the importance of opportunity. In doing so, she hopes to bring more opportunities to people in disadvantaged positions.
Every woman has great potential. They just need to have the opportunity to showcase their talents.
Lesson #3 – Find Your “Great Hunger”
Tererai is not only a doctor. She’s also the author of The Awakened Woman. In her book, Tererai talks about the difference between your “Little Hunger” and your “Great Hunger”.
A Little Hunger is a dream or achievement that fulfils you on a personal level. It’s almost the seed of a larger dream. But a Little Hunger is not always enough to keep you pushing when times get tough.
That’s where your Great Hunger comes into play.
In Tererai’s case, you could consider each of her four dreams as Little Hungers, at first. She wrote them down as things that would help her to enjoy a better life.
And she may never have achieved them without a Great Hunger. In her case, that hunger was to achieve her dreams so that she could provide opportunities for her community.
A Great Hunger is a dream that goes beyond yourself. It’s the true purpose behind all of the smaller steps that you take to advance yourself.
Your Great Hunger is what inspires you to empower others rather than simply empower yourself.
Lesson #4 – Give Voice to Your Dreams
How many times have you thought “Wouldn’t it be nice if…”
A dream pops into your head and you may fantasise about it for a little while. But the next day, you’ve forgotten it. Or, over time, the power of that dream weakens.
You never gave voice to it. The dream just lived as a fantasy in your head and you didn’t achieve it.
Tererai Trent gave voice to her dreams. She spoke to her mother about them and wrote them down on a scrap of paper. When she started working towards moving to America, giving voice to her dream is what inspired her community to help her.
Giving voice to her dreams made them tangible. It made them achievable. And with the support of others, Tererai turned her dreams into a reality.
The lesson here is that you can’t keep your dreams locked up inside yourself. If you do, you may never find the opportunities you need to make your dreams real.
After all, how can anyone else help to empower you if they don’t know what you want to achieve in life?
Empower Yourself to Empower Others
Tererai Trent is an inspiration to all who feel that their circumstances make it impossible for them to achieve their goals. She rose from an impoverished background to become a doctor and respected author.
And today, she works tirelessly to give back and empower women who are just like her before she started to work on her dreams.
I encourage you to follow her example and turn your dreams into reality.
And I can help you if you’d like to learn more about women’s empowerment and women like Tererai Trent. Pre-order my book, Love Your Obstacles, today and contact me if you’d like me to speak on the subject of empowerment at your next event.