WOMEN now play a bigger role in the economy, however, polices should be put in place to enhance their access to financial services to attain sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.
This will also enable the majority of them to move away from being mere traders and to be actively involved in productive sectors such as mining and manufacturing.
As the world marks International Women’s Day, businesswomen and leaders interviewed by The Herald Business said while the environment was allowing them to participate in the mainstream economy, there were still areas that needed improvement.
Indigenous Business Women’s Organisation president Dr Jane Mutasa said women were currently excluded from formal financial services despite constituting the majority of the population and this was preventing them from growing their businesses.
The Finscope survey of 2012 indicated
that 57 percent of the business owners are women. Women constitute 51 percent of the population.
Thus their participation in the mainstream economy is critical in attaining sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.
“It is great to talk about the battles that we have won as business women,” Dr Mutasa, who has interest in telecoms and manufacturing said.
“Sometime back we were not allowed to open bank accounts and one needed a husband’s signature to have an account.
“That was one of the biggest impediment for women who wanted to start up businesses.
“We were essentially taken as second class citizens. We fought to have such polices repealed in the context of women black empowerment and we are glad that has been done.
“However, as women, we are still marginalised when it comes to running bigger businesses. We feel we are still on the periphery of the real economy.
“Statistics have shown that women have not accessed meaningful loans from the banks. Yes, we are happy that a bank dedicated to serve women is being established but that is not enough.
“Policies should be put in place to ensure that women get access to meaningful loans from all financial institutions at attractive conditions.
“This will allow women to transform their small business to much bigger enterprises. It’s not like women are comfortable with those small businesses that they are running.
“We also need Government to come up with deliberate initiatives to educate women on export markets. We have women in Matabeleland North making very attractive artefact, which I am sure can be exported but the problem is we do not have knowledge.”
Last year, Reserve Bank governor Dr John Mangudya admitted that women were largely excluded from financial services and promised to come up with strategies to enhance.
Zimbabwe is in the process of establishing a bank to provide funding to businesses run by women.
Minerva managing director Ms Lydia Tanyanyiwa said access to capital was critical for women.
“The average woman does not command the collateral that is needed to access start up financing,” she said. “The financial food chain should be structured such that it enables women to have access without the burden of (providing) unrealistic collateral demands.
“Our banking houses should be enablers for women.” Aloe Enterprises managing director Ms Nancy Saungweme said most women lacked collateral and this was preventing them from accessing loans from the banks. She also said the issue of gender balance was not being taken seriously in the sense that men have kept on sidelining women, at the same time consolidating their business empires. “For instance it is rare that a women is awarded a tender worth more than $5 million and that trend has continued to exist for sometime now. Something needs to be done to capacitate women and make sure they participate at any level of business transactions.”
Ms Judy Gonese, who runs two restaurants in the Harare Central Business District said Government should come up with programmes to help women to be more innovative. She said the mentality of continuing replicating other people’s and old business models was the reason why many women eventually found themselves out of business.
“We need to be ever innovative to survive. The needs for people are changing daily and those in business should be prepared to meet the new requirement for customers. So it is essential that Government facilitate capacity building programmes designed to equip women in business with skills to be more innovative and understand that getting in business has gone beyond saving domestic market only,” said Ms Gonese.
Businesswoman Mrs Marah Hativagone said capital had always been the limiting factor for women entrepreneurs such that some lucrative projects could not take off or grow.
Nicoz Diamond managing director Mrs Grace Muradzikwa said women empowerment was critical in Zimbabwe to enhance the participation of women in business. She said an empowered woman is confident to take up any role that and help build stronger economies.
“As for me, issues close to my heart are empowerment, especially for young women. An empowered woman is confident in whatever she does,” said Ms Muradzikwa.
With regards to leadership positions, Consumer Council of Zimbabwe Rosemary Siyachitema said:
“Not many women (are) in high leadership positions . . . they are still few. There is still that assumption about women . . . the stereotypes used to define the roles women should play in society.”
Institute Directors of Zimbabwe chairman Mr Ben Gasura said his institute was working on ensuring that there is equal presentation of women on corporate boards.
“That is why we have a deliberate training and development programme aimed at empowering women to take up leadership positions,” said Mr Gasura in an interview.
He also applauded the establishment of a bank dedicated to serve women saying this would go a long way in helping them to start up and grow their enterprises.