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Vessels of Virtue (VOV) yesterday successfully held a conference on the Empowerment and Elevation of Women Entrepreneurs, Trade, and Innovation at the Celebration International Church in Borrowdale, Harare.
In her keynote address while officially opening the conference, the Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Hon. Monica Mutsvangwa said the conference was meant to help women to thrive and realize their full potential in entrepreneurship for improved economic value in Africa and beyond.
“Firstly, I want to express my profound gratitude to Vessels of Virtue (VOV) for the invitation to officiate at this opportune occasion, which focuses on the Empowerment and Elevation of Women Entrepreneurs, Trade and Innovation.
“It is a programme that trains, mentors, and develops women and youth leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators through the Business Accelerator Program and Thriving Entrepreneurs Workbook. I am glad that this will help women to thrive and realize their full potential in entrepreneurship for improved economic value in Africa and beyond,” Hon Mutsvangwa said.
Among the dignitaries were the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Vessels of Virtue, Precious Nyarambi; Mrs. Fungai Samushonga of Veracity Group; Mrs Maureen Ngwenya from the Circle of Comfort; and Mrs Pamela Gwanzura of the Audacious Women; and executives from Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.
Women across the globe face almost similar challenges on women’s rights, entrepreneurship, bilateral trade, market linkages, climate change, and leadership, among other challenges.
Hon Mutsvangwa said the discourse on failure by women in almost all facets of life in the global village, Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular, is premised on barriers inclusive of patriarchy and old stereotypes based on the perception that men have bigger brains than women and therefore should be seen leading in every aspect of life.
“Hence, more often than not, the traits associated with leadership are often thought of as masculine and not viewed favorably when exhibited by women. Other barriers include fewer “connections” or networks, lack of resources, knowledge gap, limited access to markets and credit, health care and education, and discrimination amongst other challenges that women face in their quest to improve their social and economic standing. This recurrent reality is detrimental to the progress made in achieving gender balance, and it deserves urgent attention,” Mutsvangwa said.
The Government of Zimbabwe has shown its unwavering commitment to the promotion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment.
Zimbabwe has signed and ratified various International and regional instruments that speak to the issues of gender equality and women empowerment. These include the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality, the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Zimbabwe also took part in the formulation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Protocol, which seeks to address challenges faced by women and youth in Trade. Zimbabwe has ratified the AfCFTA and is one of the countries that has started to benefit from trading under this Free Trade Area.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe that was adopted in 2013 establishes a solid bedrock for our commitments to Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. The Constitution provides for parity in terms of participation of men and women in all spheres of life and stands tall as one of the most progressive Constitutions in terms of advancing women’s rights and the attainment of Gender Equality.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs coordinates the implementation of the National Gender Policy and mainstreaming of gender into all sectors to eliminate all negative economic, social, and cultural practices that impede equality and equity between men and women. It is in the process of reviewing the Broad-Based Women Economic Empowerment Framework, which seeks to guide the empowerment of women economically by addressing the structural barriers that prevent women from fully participating in development processes.
“Our population is made up of 52% women who play multiple roles in the development of the economy. Women are producers, educators, and caregivers, therefore they should be empowered economically, socially, politically, and legally. My Ministry has been mandated to promote Women’s Empowerment, Gender Equality, and Equity; and the development of Communities, Cooperatives, and Small and Medium Enterprises. Women empowerment, gender mainstreaming, community development, micro, small, and medium enterprises, and cooperative development have been recognized as key for socio-economic development and are all-inclusive,” Hon Mutsvangwa added.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs administers micro-credit funds to economically empower women, communities, cooperatives, and small and medium enterprises.
The Ministry empowers women by providing them with affordable loans through the Women Development Fund (WDF) and the Zimbabwe Women Micro Finance Bank (ZWMB), which both provide tailor-made and affordable financial resources to fund income-generating projects.
Women also benefit from the Zimbabwe Community Development Fund (ZCDF), which is a Fund similar to the Women Development Fund (WDF). The only difference is that it caters for both men and women. Small and Medium Enterprises Development Cooperation (SMEDCO) supports entrepreneurs inclusive of women in business. The Ministry operates at the National, Provincial, District, and ward levels, in all the 10 Provinces.
It also provides capacity building to women entrepreneurs and promotes women’s resilience through the capacity of women empowerment clubs which include; Internal Savings and Lendings (ISALs), nutrition gardening, and value addition, just to mention a few.
The women in clubs are capacitated with knowledge and relevant skills. Capacities of these women are strengthened to enable the Clubs to grow or graduate into Cooperatives or SMEs.
Women traders often face policy and legal obstacles and are affected by gender-biased socio-cultural norms, higher tariff and non-tariff barriers, finance, and lack of access to technology.
While trade can be an engine of growth that creates jobs, reduces poverty, and increases economic opportunities, women traders often experience cumbersome and costly border processes and procedures that prevent them from growing their businesses.
The lack of global and national data on the exact nature of the barriers that women face makes it harder to address these challenges. Border processes and procedures are often assumed non-discriminatory in design; however, the collection of gender-disaggregated data shows that women and youth-led enterprises often face greater trade facilitation challenges than those led by men such as lack of capacity and information on customs clearance procedures.