Women in the extractive sector are buoyant that the soon to be operational Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank (ZWMFB) will positively impact on their entrepreneurial fortunes by providing sustainable project funding in this highly capital intensive sector.
The Bank to be chaired by former Zimpapers chief executive officer Mathew Kunaka was initially set to be launched at this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations on 8th of last month in Harare but was however moved for a later date this year, with capital injection of US$ 10 million.
For years the majority of women have been tugged to the periphery of project lending outside agriculture by most commercial banks and more so women in small scale mining who constitute a considerable number of alluvial miners across the country’s rich mineral belts.
With the extractives sector hauling about US$ 2 billion in export earnings for the country last year, more worrying is a very decimated number of women accounting for these huge profits as very few hold claims to mining concessions or own milling plants.
As part of government’s affirmative action strategy, the coming in of the women bank has been tipped to be a game changer in financing various projects for women particularly in viable fields previously perceived to be male domains.
A recent broad-based framework study done by The Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development shows that more and more women are engaging in mining activities yet very few own mining processing plants, mining equipment and mining claims.
It further showed that many were failing to acquire capital to improve mining operations.
Speaking at the Gender and Extractives Symposium in Harare recently, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Honorable Mabel Chinomona said lack of funding was a major challenge for female small scale miners partly because of the lack of confidence by financial institutions due to volatility of prices of minerals but much more to distrust of women in this sector.
“Lack of funding has remained a major challenge for small scale mining enterprises because finance institutions lack confidence in the sector. Lack of funding has been worsened by women subordinate position in society. While financial institutions have been encouraged to extend loans to all people regardless of sex, women remain victims of mistrust,”
“I am proud to note that the establishment of the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank has reached advanced stage.
‘‘This will go a long way in providing cash to women in business, including those who are venturing into the mining sector,” she said.
She said affirmative action to deliberately increase the number of women players in the sector will also be encouraged by Parliament as part and parcel of the ongoing Ease of Doing Business Reforms while also helping both women and men to regularize illegal mining activities in areas such as Kwekwe, Chiyadzwa, Penhalonga, Shamva and Mazoe.
Players in the sector have however called for Government to speed up the operationalisation of the bank to avail funds for women wanting to acquire chrome claims which have been recently acquired by the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development from ZIMASCO and ZIMALLOYS for indigenous players to participate in the sub-sector.
In April this year, Minister Chidhakwa announced Government acquisition of 50 per cent ownership of mineral claims held by the two companies with ZIMASCO having already relinquished 21 270 hectares to Government.
However Head of Marketing at CBZ Eldrette Shereni conceded that most women lack experience in the extractive sector as a result of stigmatization in the field and called for capacity building in order to bring the best they could offer.
“Most of women in mining do not have the requisite skills in mining to convince lenders and this call for an intensive capacity building initiative by all stakeholders in a bid to capacitate their potential.
‘‘ Social norms that tend to classify gender roles have also played a major role in restricting full potential in women participating in mining activities,” she said.
Kudzanai Gerede Business Correspondent – Manica Post