‘Nurture your business like your child’

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In this story:

  • Women’s unique qualities in business
  • UNITA training capacitates women entrepreneures

By Conrad Mwanawashe

Hulya Mantion, Founder and CEO of CircleHood once said: “Don’t ever buy into the belief that you need to behave like a man to succeed. Instead, embrace all of the unique qualities of your personality and bring this into business with you.”

According Dr Mandas Marikanda, CEO of the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank, women are better placed to nurture and grow their businesses if they apply the same values and unique qualities they apply when raising their children.

“We understand that we are women and women nurture small things. You and I, we know what it means to raise a child,” said Dr Marikanda.

She was addressing a training programme on “Accelerating Sustainable and Climate Resilient Livelihoods through development of Small and Medium Agribusiness Enterprises for Women and Youth” which benefited over 150 women and youth from Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe (50 per country).

The programme is funded by the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and implemented by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in cooperation with The National Economic Empowerment Council (NEEC)-Tanzania and the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Small and Medium Enterprises Development.

The participants went through the different training phases: Training on Agribusiness Opportunities and SME Development Training on SME Start-up/Expansion Coaching on livelihood/small business initiation

This event was the culmination of the training programme to showcase their projects and impact of the programme that started in November 2023

“You know what it means to look after a lovely, small, helpless thing?
And you make this man who lives with that who can stay here.
I tell you, if you give birth to a child, you say to him, please look after this thing,
they’ll run away. How do you handle something that is so delicate?

“It needs you to check their head, to change their diaper, when they cry sometimes you don’t know what they need. But the woman looks at this thing with delicate eyes, dirty and with these hearts and feels like this is the most loveable thing. If we can do that with children, we can do that with businesses,” she added.

Research by Jenifer Mawanza and Samson Mtisi titled: Factors Inhibiting the Growth of Female Owned Small Businesses in the City of Bulawayo found out that “the barriers inhibiting the growth of female owned businesses are: lack of capital, low levels of education, lack of training or experience, gender stereotyping, lack of time, market accessibility, access to information and access to technology, among others. Lack of capital was singled out to be the major barrier that affects female entrepreneurs in starting their business and in expanding them. Networking was also seen to be playing an important role in promoting growth and participation in the global economy”.

To address some of these gaps, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Women, Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development, Dr Mavis Sibanda said the training for micro, small and medium enterprises women by UNITA, was important as it makes them relevant and also to remain in existence, especially as the country is experiencing effects of climate change.

“The innovativeness, the environmentally friendly business ventures, and the climate resilience of your businesses, as well as the employment creation component your businesses are displaying, shows that the training has given you skills which are relevant to our current challenge of climate change, and solutions are there indeed. This platform has been so rich, as it has assisted you in improving your business model, as well as being connected to potential funders.

“The capacity building that UNITA brought was complementing the Ministry’s work in terms of empowerment of our micro, small and medium enterprise, with a special focus on women. In Zimbabwe, over 70% of employment is being created by the micro and small medium enterprises in our country, and the micro, small and medium enterprises are contributing $8.6 billion to our GDP,” said Dr Sibanda said in a speech read on her behalf.

The Ministry has four employment funds; the Women Development Fund, Zimbabwe Community Development Fund, SMEDCO, and the Zimbabwe Women Microfinance Bank.

SMEDCO Finance Director, Tapiwa Nyagumbo said the organisation was prepared to partner the women entrepreneurs.

“In terms of SMEDCO, we do offer financial assistance, so I’m inviting you as well to come to SMEDCO for a credit finance arrangement. We can offer that. We do offer loans.

“And in terms of our target for this year, we are trying to make sure that, in terms of loan disbursements, we reach at least 50% in terms of our gender disaggregation data. Last year we reached 45%. In terms of our loan pool, 45% was given to women.

“We gave ourselves a target to make sure that we disburse loans to at least 50% to women. So, it means this is an opportunity. We are introducing a product to make sure that we encourage women to actually access funding, a product that is specifically designed to cater for women’s needs. And it has got discounted rates. A discount rate on the normal product of almost 20% on the rate.

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