First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has appealed to financial institutions to provide cheap and affordable loans to women in the construction sector or women led companies as they are known to possess the qualities of sincerity, accountability perseverance, hard work as well as being corruption averse.
She was speaking at the launch of the Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association (ZBCA) Women’s Desk where she was appointed patron of women contractors.
The First Lady, who has a passion for the empowerment of women, pointed out that the construction sector the world over was dominated by men despite the fact that governments all over the world, Zimbabwe included, had put in place policies and laws that promoted gender parity in the construction sector.
“The theme for this launch is in line with the Government’s policy on gender. Section 56 of the Zimbabwean Constitution provides a framework for the protection and promotion of the rights of women and the girl child in Zimbabwe. The construction sector is an important sector for our country.
“It is responsible for the building of schools, hospitals, roads, dams, airports and other infrastructure and social amenities that are required for economic activity to take place. It is therefore important to know that this sector is a bigger contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country,” she said.
Investors worldwide, the First Lady said, were comfortable in doing business with a country which has got a well-manicured infrastructure and women in general, because of their nature of motherhood, were not a risk factor.
“I am reliably informed that the Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association has over 3 000 members countrywide and that women members stand at 38. Women members therefore account for just over one percent. With our numbers in the country , it is our job as women. Come and let us build our country Zimbabwe.
“Such a low figure is not acceptable given the high enrolment of female students in our institutions of higher learning who are studying towards a built environment qualification.
“I am also aware of the challenges facing women that are engaged in the construction sector such as: Belief by men who hold decision-making positions in the sector that suitable candidates are those that are tough and rough and that women do not fit this description.
“Lack of access to working capital as well as plant and equipment; Failure to win tenders and lack of role models, that is, women that have excelled in the sector that would encourage the girl child to enter into the construction industry,” she said.
The mother of the nation said she was encouraged by the fact that despite challenges faced by women in the construction sector, the sector had begun discussions on ways to overcome them.
“I take this opportunity to encourage women contractors in here to work hard and become role models for young girls to enter the sector. I also appeal to service institutions such as banks to ensure that cheap and affordable loans are made available to women-led companies.
“The Zimbabwe Women Microfinance Bank should take a lead in supporting women contractors financially. May I also appeal to your clients especially Government departments to ensure that they put in place some affirmative policies that will enable women led companies to win tenders.
“As women contractors let us ensure that we deliver a first-class, efficient and professional product to our clients. Our services must meet the customer’s requirements and expectations at all times. Let us form consortiums where necessary so that we work as a group to guarantee success. Let us help each other so that we become successful as a group,” she said.
“We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored. Let this message I leave with you encourage you to take space and cement your name in history and make it known that a woman’s place is not limited to the household, but can stretch globally,” she said.
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa receives construction tools from Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association President Engineer Christopher Mawere and Women’s desk chairperson Ms Galdencia Sigauke (left) in Harare on Thursday.
Women’s Affairs, Gender, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni said studies all over the world, Zimbabwe included, showed that the sector had remained one of the most-male-dominated yet history showed that women and men built their shelters together.
“With the advancement of technology and modern architecture women got left behind. I am glad to say that women are coming to take their place alongside the men in construction and infrastructure development in Zimbabwe.
“However, they still face a plethora of challenges which include lack of affordable financing, plant and equipment, isolation and lack of visibility of women-led construction companies, failure to win tenders due to lack of a track record in the construction industry, lack of clearly stated affirmative action policies for women businesses and where these policies are in place they have not been adequately and widely dominated to women entrepreneurs, neither have they been consistently implemented,” she said.
Minister Nyoni said despite the challenges some women had managed to rise to the top, running their own construction companies and owning state-of-the-art machinery.
She assured them that the Government through her ministry will ensure that they get all the support they need as they try to foster an inclusive gender sensitive society.
“To the women in construction, never give up. The President, Cde E.D Mnangagwa has put facilities to assist women entrepreneurs like you such as SMEDCO and the Women Microfinance bank. Please make use of these institutions,” she said.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Allowance Sango said the participation of women in construction was important as it widened opportunities open to them.
“Over the years, women have demonstrated through their life and work they can make a difference, not just a small difference, but a big and critical one.”
It is my feeling that the time is ripe for women to make a difference in the infrastructural sector as there are many opportunities presented by the current economic thrust where infrastructure is at the centre of economic development,” he said.
ZBCA Women’s Desk Chair Ms Galdencia Sigauke said as women in construction, they had seen it prudent enough to play a part in achieving Vision 2030, hence he establishment of the desk.
“Demographically it is proved that women are more than men yet in the construction industry men are dominant with women marginalised. Amai, we are seeking as women in construction to be equally afforded the same opportunities in infrastructural development just like our male counterparts.
“We also appeal to you Amai to enhance us to set a fair share in the recently launched $33,6 billion Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP). In this regard, we appeal to your esteemed office for assistance in accessing viable friendly credit lines so that we can be well capacitated to compete with our male counterparts
“Riding on the National Development Strategy One (NDS1) which seeks to empower women, we as women in construction have seen it prudent enough to also play our part in this noble gesture to achieve vision 2030. We want to thank you Amai for the great works that you are carrying out with your organisation, Angel of Hope Foundation across the nation in empowering women and the girl child,” she said.
The launch of the Women’s Desk was honoured to have Mrs Elizabeth Chakudunga, who was the first woman bricklayer in Zimbabwe, who is also president of Zimbabwe Women in Construction and she took guests down memory lane and chronicled huge strides women had made.
“I was in the interviewing committee at the inception of the Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association and I interviewed a lot of men in the construction industry. Be that as it may, we saw that women were also itching to make contributions to the construction sector. This is how we started the Zimbabwe Women in Construction to accommodate them,” she said to applause.