We need to push for the Women’s Bank

Celebrated on March 8 under the theme ‘make it happen’, International Women’s Day has left women reflecting on their lives and what they need to do to improve them.

ZWRN director Pamela Mhlanga left chats with fellow women.
ZWRN director Pamela Mhlanga left chats with fellow women.

Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network director, Pamela Mhlanga, has encouraged women not to make songs of complaint about their situation but to rise up and use legal instruments like the national gender policy that supports their empowerment.

Cabinet circular 18 of 2013 mandated that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development should establish a Women’s Bank to create a level playing field for women in business.

“We need to put our cards on the table in respect with the changes we want to see at policy level,” said Mhlanga. “In the 2015 budget there is a $5 million commitment by the government to establish a women’s bank. The question is to what extent are we pushing for that to happen?”

Dreams too big

The Director of Empretec Zimbabwe, Sibusisiwe Bango, believes women will see their issues being addressed by a bank for women. For so long women have struggled to secure loans to start their own businesses in patriarchal Zimbabwe, where such dreams are considered too big for women

“I believe if we can have a women’s bank it would have different conditions, requirements and criteria to service women,” explained Bango. “In most of the local banks the people who have taken the most loans are men and they have gone and abused those loans. Let us all speak with one voice and drive for that women’s bank. I know our government can always say a budget is a plan – but let us all speak with one voice because certainly such a bank will help us all.”

Bango, who grew up in a business-minded family accounting for monies her parents made in the taxi business in Bulawayo, said there was nothing wrong with a woman having her own money and business.”

Break out

“We are brought up with the understanding that the man is the breadwinner and women have to wait for the men to put the bread on the family table. If there are opportunities out there for women they need to go out and get them. I broke out from this cultural and societal grooming that we grew up in and I acted differently throughout my life,” she said.

“The other lesson that I picked up along the way was that when an opportunity comes, grab it! Most of us women are very shy to take up these opportunities when they come along. We start saying “should it not be a man or should it not be so and so?” because we feel we are not up to the task. But what I say to women is that even when you are not up to the task, get in there, find the information and learn more about that task and understand it,” she added.

Success is for men

The patriarchal society in which we live has socialised women to believe success is for men, while women work hard to fuel their men’s success trains. Successful Zimbabwean women in business are now appealing to their fellow women to have a paradigm shift of that mind-set and urge each other on.

Social change agent and business woman, Hazel Chinake, said men also played a big role in empowering women. “It is all about identifying our champions in whatever cause. For instance lobbying for a women’s bank; we need to organise ourselves into how best we can come together with key action points,” she said.

“I have found that in the women’s space we always bring each other down and as much as we point to men as the problem we are sometimes our own problem. We need to get organised and know what we want. We probably think the women’s bank is the answer but how skilled are we to be able to manage the finances when we get them? Do we have plans of running the business properly and are we committed?” she questioned.

“Micro-finance is often associated with women as they are told, Ah you can get a small loan for your business – but it is not enough! We want to be able to negotiate for lower interests rates and be taken seriously as women in business – not only in Zimbabwe but in other African countries.”

Chinake, who is also the Chairperson of a network of businesswomen that brings together existing associations at country and regional level, said such networks need to help amplify women’s voices for empowerment.

Post published in: Analysis

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