Uncertainty over launch of Women’s Bank

Prospects for setting up the Women’s Bank hang in the balance following revelations that treasury has not allocated a single cent to the initiative.

In her budget report to the portfolio committee on women’s affairs, gender and community development, permanent secretary Perpetua Gumbo revealed that the ministry’s proposed $10m budget had not attracted any money at all.

Said Gumbo: “The ministry did not receive anything under this vote. The ministry has since consulted the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on the way forward. The advice that we got is that the prevailing economic environment is not favourable for the establishment of a bank, but we are to hold more meetings to see how best we can map the way forward.”

Last year, the former minister of women’s affairs, gender and community development, Olivia Muchena, revealed that as part of preparations for the establishment of the bank, her ministry had begun to select directors ready for a 2014 opening.

The concept of the bank stemmed from recognition that, despite having more than 10 commercial banks in the country, access to finance for women entrepreneurs remained a challenge.

The ministry noted that women were asked to produce collateral, despite the fact most did not own properties in their own names.

Cabinet Circular 18 of 2013 mandated that the ministry should establish a Women’s Bank to ensure a level playing field for aspiring women entrepreneurs to access financial capital.

Research has shown that African women are the backbone of their countries’ economies and they play an important role in ensuring ensure their families’ well-being. Women make up most of the population and their role is crucial in providing food, shelter, health and education to children.

The director of an organisation working with women in all the country’s ten provinces, Wadzanai Vere, said the establishment of the bank was critical in promoting women’s enterprises.

Said Vere: “The bank guarantees the provision of products that are specific to women’s needs and it is highly likely that its conditions and interest rates would be designed to promote women’s enterprises.”

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