Takudzwa Chiwereweshe and Wimbainashe Zhakata Post Reporters
MUTARE residents have hailed the launch of the Zimbabwe Women’s micro-finance bank by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday saying the move would boost women’s participation in economic matters of the country.
The bank is the first of its kind in the SADC region and will offer loans to women, youths and other small-scale businesses.
The Manica Post caught up with Young Women in Business president, Mrs Apphia Musawengana who had this to say: “The women’s bank brings a big opportunity for lifetime savings for individual women and those of them in business. This is also important in that it addresses the challenges of collateral requirements. The women’s bank will also help to support women’s basic and strategic needs.”
Mrs Musawengana urged women to approach the bank for loans.
She said: “I advise women to register and access financial services from the first bank for women in the SADC region.”
A bee-keeper, Mrs Wendy Mutisi who was exhibiting at the launch said: “This is a good thing but our area of concern is all noble ventures like this start and are centralised in Harare. We would like Government to intervene and enable women access credit through this bank from wherever they are. We want the bank’s activities to be available in all provinces so that women can access its services.”
Tichaona Rikati (52), a security guard said: “The launch of the bank is a grand gesture, as it will empower our women to start up, scale up or diversify their businesses. This special treatment will go a long way in bridging the gap between men and women by elevating their position in society. This initiative is also commendable as it will ensure that women have financial stability and will not always need to ask for money from their spouses. It takes two to take care of the family.”
Faustino Mubako (34), from Sakubva high density suburb said: “Our main worry is the fact that the bank is in Harare so women in other provinces are not recognised. Women in Harare are better off than women in other provinces and areas so it makes little sense to have a women’s bank for marginalised women in the capital where the majority of women are not impoverished.”
Some people interviewed even professed ignorance of the bank’s existence.
Chipo Bakare (36) from Chikanga high density suburb said: “We do not have any information concerning the bank and we are still to get the information I guess. At the moment we do not have a clear picture on the operations of the Women’s bank. The scanty information we have is that the bank is in Harare which defeats the whole purpose of targeting marginalised rural women. It does not make financial sense for us to travel to Harare to obtain credit facilities.”
Ruvimbo Muzeke (29) a vendor said: “It is a good initiative especially for small-scale farmers, as they can access loans to enhance their agricultural production. This is a noble venture especially as more women are involved in agriculture, so investing in them is a strategic way of strengthening food security.
“It is also good for small-scale informal traders, as they can now access loans and enhance their financial security.”
It was however exciting to note that despite expressing mixed feelings towards the initiative, some people interviewed on the streets of Mutare still conceded that the initiative was noble and empowering though it could further sideline some women economically and do very little to empower them.
Men could not hide their feeling of deprivation and felt the initiative had ‘‘bias’’ written all over it, as there was no gender balancing efforts.
Sydney Mangweka (32) from Sakubva high density suburb said the launching of a women’s bank was discriminatory in terms of gender equality.
He said: “Calling it ‘women’s bank’ is a sign of discrimination. The launch of a ‘women’ only bank, though designed to empower them, will continue to perpetuate their subjugation and marginalisation.”
He also said that micro credits given by the bank may not be very helpful because anyone could easily get them from other banks, which was not really empowering to these women.
“To me it is more of a savings or women’s club and not a bank because of the nature of credit it will give to women while men are not allowed to access it, which is unfair,” he added.
However, the misgivings by men have not taken the lustre of the initiative, as some women have already started registering with the bank, which is a good sign of progress.