A notable number of Zambian female role models working in largely male-dominated economic sectors have urgently called for enhanced women empowerment.

The women, brought together by the Private Enterprise Programme (PEP) Zambia, have also reminded the country on the need to finance women’s business ideas as this has potential to grow Zambia’s economy.

Speaking at the PEP-Zambia Women’s Day evening held, Thursday, at Lusaka’s brand new Neelkanth Sarovar Premiere Hotel, First Quantum Minerals (FQM) Health and Projects Advisor Gertrude Musunka noted that while empowerment of women had taken place to enable them realise their full economic potential, there was need for more mentorship of young girls and women.

Musunka, as part of a discussion panel, noted that notable strides had been made towards a gender-balanced Zambia as could be seen in the mining sector, which now had female engineers and operators handling sophisticated and complicated equipment in the mines.

“I should state here that the basic thing about women’s participation in the economic sector is about education. I think that education cannot be overemphasised in terms of what it does in spearheading women inclusion in all workplaces. We have seen engineer women, operator women and top banking executive women and what’s common among all these is that they went to school and they studied sciences; doing what boys can do by entering predominantly male careers,” Musunka said.

She also called for serious mentorship programmes towards getting more women into workplaces and empowerment.

“I can give, for instance, FQM where I have been given space for me to do my job and be creative, we have a serious mentorship programme aimed at inspiring young girls to aspire for positions that should enable them play serious roles like men in the nation,” Musunka said.

Other women on the panel included NATSAVE chief executive officer Mukwandi Chibesakunda, Proflight’s youngest female commercial pilot Besa Mumba and Mwelwa Koni, who is Yalelo corporate affairs director.

Chibesakunda noted that most of the small businesses in Zambia were run by women who, unfortunately, were unable to grow them because of low confidence as well as lack of credit to support them.

“When you finance women, you have financed the world! Here, in Zambia, we need to ensure women build confidence to be able to even borrow from institutions. They need capital and financial literacy. Currently, we only have five CEOs in the financial sector out of hundreds of institutions, and that shows that something is missing,” Chibesakunda noted.

She challenged women to build their confidence and approach banks for capital to finance their brilliant entrepreneurship ideas as financial institutions were more inclined to lend to women because of their financial discipline, among other notable characteristics.

On the other hand, Mumba called for the empowerment of women from an early stage.

And PEP-Zambia business development officer Michelle Shinondo lamented that women were always missing in the narrative of Zambian economic growth even though there were clear economic benefits in integrating women in the country’s growth story.

Shinondo said PEP-Zambia would continue working to increase women’s participation in the economy by increasing their access to capital, technical assistance and providing market linkages in order to ensure equitable participation for all.

“When you put more money into the hands of women, and when you give them that economic decision-making power, that translates into benefits to their households, communities and the country at large,” she said.

Shinondo called for a continued collective push of boundaries, breaking barriers and paving the way for future female leaders until balance for better was no longer a dream, but a reality.

She committed PEP-Zambia to continuing working in partnership with the private sector to help businesses achieve profitable and inclusive growth that benefits all Zambians.

To-date, PEP-Zambia has supported 30 women-owned businesses that have impacted hundreds of women indirectly.

The UKAID-supported PEP-Zambia’s Women’s Day was held to celebrate the many contributions made by Zambian women to society, and to empower more women to be fruitful agents of change.

– Story courtesy of SUMA SYSTEMS.