‘Zimbabwe, here we come’

Victoria Ruzvidzo Business Focus
It is no longer business as usual. Women have decided to stop the “Micky Mouse” businesses some have been engaged in and are going full throttle to contribute significantly to economic growth.

Not that they have not been doing so already but they have decided to step up from micro to macro-levels. They have now decided to really make it their business to turn around the economy.

Soon we will be having consortiums in all sectors of the economy being run by women. They have decided that they will not stay in the periphery anymore – just giving support here and there – but they will be there in the thick of things, determining the pace at which this economy will transform for the better.

This was the message that reverberated inside the meeting room on Tuesday at Kaguvi Building when the new Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Ms Nyasha Chikwinya, met women from various organisations to introduce herself in her new portfolio and to touch-base with a constituency that has always been close to her heart.

Her energy was met with equal zeal from the scores of women that attended the hugely oversubscribed meeting at her offices. The number of attendees told a story.

Of course, Minister Chikwinya’s enthusiastic and energetic deputy, Abigail Damasane, raised the tempo as she introduced the new minister, making powerful statements about women and explaining the road that Minister Chikwinya had travelled in her women’s empowerment crusade.

The minister needed little introduction after all though as she had interacted with the bulk of the women present, in her varied empowerment initiatives that began during the liberation struggle, leading to the formation of the hugely successful Women’s Multi-Million Dollar Roundtable in post-independent Zimbabwe that brought food to the table for many families while introducing hundreds of women onto the grand stage of international business in the 1990s.

Such bodies as Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Network of African Business Women (NABW) , Professional Women Executives and Business Women’s Forum (Proweb), Women in Business Alliance of Zimbabwe (WABAZ), Women in Mining, Women in Farming, Women in Construction, Women in Diamond Cutting and Polishing, cross-border traders and scores of others were represented.

The new minister did not waste time but went straight to say she was looking for women interested in big business, women who would form consortiums and contribute significantly to economic growth.

“I have a mandate to empower women in Zimbabwe. We are here to change the temperature,” said Minister Chikwinya as she rose to address the women.

“I am not here to play games or to entertain you. Nyika haisimuki nezvinhu zvemanga mhanga (the country will not progress on trivia). Women let’s be serious. Women need to pay tax and contribute towards economic growth, so we want to be united and do big projects,” she said.

This was received well by the women in attendants, many of whom exhibited immense energy and determination to achieve big things for this economy.

They made it clear that it was not just one of the talkshops where much noise would be made about women’s capabilities which would normally end with threats to achieve this and that before the steam fizzles out in one way or the other.

I have attended one too many of such gatherings which had much talk that eventually amounted to nothing but in this instance, women were serious and they even set targets and follow-ups.

Indeed, Zimbabwean women have come of age and are raring to go.

This is exactly what the economy needs. With women’s constituting 52 percent of the economy, it was always going to present a statistical misnomer were they to remain in the periphery when the economy requires that everyone be at their maximum capacity to bring it back to viability.

So determined are the women that they have decided that the illegal sanctions imposed on this country by the West will not distract them but will instead give them impetus to be more creative and more innovative in their businesses.

“We have to bust these sanctions and not continue moaning. Your will, your availability, your energy and Jesus is what we need to make it,” said Minister Chikwinya.

Certainly this new gear is what the country needs to fend off challenges. Women have always been engaged in some form of business or the other to bring food to the table and ensure survival of their families through many difficult times but they have said they now want to do much more.

The Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation will surely gain more currency if women apply more energy and commitment as agreed upon on Tuesday.

Zimbabwe has seen an increasing number of women enter the labour market, with some occupying top levels as board members, chief executives, finance directors and business owners in their right.

The numbers have, however, remained tilted in favour of men, largely for historical reasons but the landscape is changing and is bound to progress in the coming years. The majority of women entrepreneurs remain in the informal sector where at least $7 billion is said to be circulating.

This means the women factor is critical in this economy.

Such sectors as mining, particularly gold, agriculture, food, manufacturing, medical and tourism and hospitality have offered opportunities that some women professionals and entrepreneurs have taken up.

Research shows that in the next decade nearly one billion women are likely to enter the global labour force.

But their economic potential is largely unrealised.

According to a report by consultancy firm Booz & Company, if female employment rates matched those of men, GDP would increase by 5 percent in America and 9 percent in Japan by 2020.

The impact would be even larger for developing countries, home to most of the world’s women who lack adequate education and support (social and political).

Increasing female employment would increase GDP significantly in countries like India and Egypt, where female labour participation rates are below 30 percent.

These countries rank low in Booz’s index of women’s economic empowerment.

Statistics reveal that significant progress has been made generally.

For instance, in 1950 only one-third of American women of working age had a paid job.

Today two-thirds do, and women make up almost half of America’s workforce.

Since 1950 men’s employment rate has slid by 12 percentage points, to 77 per- cent.

In fact, it is said that almost everywhere more women are employed and the percentage of men with jobs has fallen – although in some countries the feminisation of the workplace still has far to go: in Italy and Japan, women’s share of jobs is still 40 percent or less.

The increase in female employment in developed countries has been aided by a big shift in the type of jobs on offer.

Manufacturing work, traditionally a male preserve, has declined, while jobs in services have expanded.

This has reduced the demand for manual labour and put the sexes on a more equal footing.

In the developing world, too, more women now have paid jobs.

In the emerging East Asian economies, for every 100 men in the labour force there are now 83 women, higher even than the average in OECD countries.

Women have been particularly important to the success of Asia’s export industries, typically accounting for 60-80 percent of jobs in many export sectors, such as textiles and clothing.

A report notes that the increase in female employment has also accounted for a big chunk of global growth in recent decades.

Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the employment of extra women has not only added more to GDP than new jobs for men but has also chipped in more than either capital investment or increased productivity.

Carve up the world’s economic growth a different way and another surprising conclusion emerges: over the past decade or so, the increased employment of women in developed economies has contributed much more to global growth than China has.

Indeed, the statistics are quite instructive and illustrate how women can help aid Zimbabwe’s economic recovery in a bigger way.

What is required is for the women to keep the momentum and act on their word.

What I witnessed on Tuesday gave me more confidence that this economy is going somewhere – with women of course.

Below is an interesting article on the net:

Girl power

Women are becoming more important in the global marketplace not just as workers, but also as consumers, entrepreneurs, managers and investors.

Women have traditionally done most of the household shopping, but now they have more money of their own to spend.

Surveys suggest that women make perhaps 80 perfect of consumers’ buying decisions — from health care and homes to furniture and food.

Kathy Matsui, chief strategist at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo, has devised a basket of 115 Japanese companies that should benefit from women’s rising purchasing power and changing lives as more of them go out to work.

It includes industries such as financial services as well as online retailing, beauty, clothing and prepared foods. Over the past decade the value of shares in Goldman’s basket has risen by 96 percent, against the Tokyo stockmarket’s rise of 13 percent.

Women’s share of the workforce has a limit.

In America it has already stalled. But there will still be a lot of scope for women to become more productive as they make better use of their qualifications.

At school, girls consistently get better grades, and in most developed countries well over half of all university degrees are now being awarded to women.

In America 140 women enrol in higher education each year for every 100 men; in Sweden the number is as high as 150. (There are, however, only 90 female Japanese students for every 100 males.)

In years to come better educated women will take more of the top jobs. At present, for example, in Britain more women than men train as doctors and lawyers, but relatively few are leading surgeons or partners in law firms.

The main reason why women still get paid less on average than men is not that they are paid less for the same jobs but that they tend not to climb so far up the career ladder, or they choose lower-paid occupations, such as nursing and teaching.

This pattern is likely to change.

In God I Trust!

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