By Kudakwashe Mhundwa and Enacy Mapakame
Women have remained financially excluded with no access to loans due to lack of collateral.
According to the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), only 9 percent of women have bank accounts in Middle East; 47 percent in Europe and Central Asia 47; 37 percent in South Asia; 49 percent in Latin America and Caribbean and 30 in Sub Sahara Africa.
The figures have remained low while growth has been also slow despite the proliferation of mobile money services to help bridge the financial literacy gap.
In all this, banks stand accused of providing too little financial support to women.
However, in Zimbabwe the Government is now trying to change all that through the newly formed Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank (ZWMB) that should provide loans to women with more relaxed conditions, a move seen as a key in sharpening entrepreneurial development among women.
It will also help integrate women into mainstream banking activities, until now streamlined because of a lack of security or technical knowhow in business proposal design. Zimbabwe has also made strides towards gender equity and equality in education and politics although more still needs to be done.
British American Tobacco (BAT) managing director Clara Mlambo said Zimbabwe was still rooted in patriarchal values with certain key positions still regarded as a preserve for men. In business, for instance, only two Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed companies are headed by women.
“A simple statistic such as the number of companies listed on the stock exchange headed by women shows that we are not doing well at all as a country.
“At the lower management levels we are adequately represented, the challenge is at the senior and executive levels. The question then is — why are we unable to convert a sufficient number of already existing highly competent junior female managers into senior managers and executives,” queried Ms Mlambo.
“The private sector needs to walk the talk and ensure that it is playing its part in this corporate or institution gender balance journey — the will needs to be there.
“The road is still very long, and interventions will still be required until we have the right balance. In the short to medium term organisations and institutions in Zimbabwe may need to be encouraged through legislation/policies that require a certain quota of women in leadership,” she said.
She, however, commended President Emmerson Mnangagwa for undertaking to address the gender imbalance through appointment of women in ministerial positions as well as Government departments.
Ms Mlambo also highlighted the need for mentorship programmes where women in top positions groom others into high corporate roles, inculcating in them leadership qualities.
Said Ms Mlambo: “Having said that, we must also not ignore the importance that men play in the advancement of female leaders — particularly given that there are currently more male leaders than female leaders in most organisations.”