Last week Zimbabwean women joined the rest of the world in celebrating Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED). The first celebrations for Zimbabwe were sponsored by Ecocash Mukando Savings Club a group money saving service provided by Econet Wireless.
UN WED Ambassador and Head of Business for Ecocash, Natalie Jabangwe-Morris organised the event and hosted over 100 women involved in different entrepreneurship projects around the country.
In her opening remarks Jabangwe-Morris admitted that she was proud and pleased to have organised the first gathering to celebrate female entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe. She felt women who were venturing more and more into a practise that is currently driving the country’s economy, deserved to be acknowledged.
“60% of African production comes from women yet only 6% of them are recorded as employed, women need to be at the forefront of business conversations worldwide,” she said.
The main highlights of the event were the two panel discussions led by successful business and professional women in Zimbabwe.
Is there a glass ceiling for women or not?
Prominent Human Rights Lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, one of the country’s leading businesswomen, Rudo Boka and Diana Patel were on the first panel which was guided by a question on whether there is a glass ceiling for women or not.
The general response from the women was that there was a glass ceiling for women, but the panelists argued that women have the ability to go beyond the ceiling.
Rudo Boka advised that for any woman to stand competition in any business, she had to master all the available knowledge there is on the trade.
She said, “If you know your trade, it doesn’t matter that there are more men than women in it, you can outdo any competition.”
Boka went on to explain that the disadvantages that women have compared to men make the process longer and more difficult but knowledge, perseverance and hard work have a way of succeeding in the end. She encouraged women to read widely.
Beatrice Mtetwa’s advice was that women had to make their misfortunes into opportunities. She acknowledged that corruption and bad business practices by comeptition had pushed many women entrepreneurs to the periphery but they could use this to their advantage.
“You should take ethics as a business strategy, said Mtetwa. “Do your things in a way that will not sow a seed of curse”’ she added.
In her argument Mtetwa stated that one of the limitations that women have faced is the belief that to be called successful they have to always imitate and outdo men. She stated that by allowing themselves to be different, women will allow the growth of innovative ideas.
The ‘buy women’ campaign
The second panel focused more on ways in which women could get out of their places of confinement and realise their full potential in business.
Shingai Dengu started by encouraging women to get out of their shells.
“I think, conformity is the devil’s work, it is the killer of all innovation, said Dengu”
She highlighted that conformity was promoted by the fact children are raised in a way that confines them to certain gender roles that are ascribed by society. She called on women to become adventurous and explore new business sectors that they are passionate about and felt they could prosper in.
Precious Lunga added to Dengu’s arguments by advising women not to feel intimated by standards that they believe have been set for them by men.
“Speak up, if you have a question ask it and if you have a comment make it”, said Dr Lunga.
She encouraged women to believe in themselves in whatever they aimed to do and pay less attention to society’s stereotypes on what women should and should not be.
This panel also agreed that women’s success also depended on what women did for each other. Divine Ndhlukula revealed a project she has been working on which she thinks will be practical way to support businesses run by women. Through what she terms ‘The buy women’ campaign’, Ndhlukula hopes that more women will find it easy to sell their products and services.
“We will be launching the campaign through the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Women’s desk and we hope it will promote the identification of women who provide certain products and services,” she revealed.
The campaign is meant to undo women’s limited access to markets which she argued had been the major reason why women had remained confined to small scale businesses.
Market access is one of the aspects that banks and lending institutions look at when considering businesses for loans and the fact that women only had a small market share meant that they did not qualify for loans which put them at a disadvantage to men.
Another intervention came from Natalie Jabangwe-Morris who introduced the Women in entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe application. The application is meant to be a data base for women involved in different businesses in Zimbabwe. The application will have names of women in business, the services and products they provide. Such an initiative is expected to make it easier for women to be identified and contacted for business.
Women’s Entrepreneurship Day was founded and implemented by Wendy Diamond. The first celebrations were held for the first time on the 19th of November 2014 and it was celebrated in 144 countries worldwide.
Images by Daphne Jena