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Graduate School of Development Studies


Research Paper presented by:

Felicity Munemo


In partial fulfilment of the
requirements for obtaining the degree of



[Work, Employment and Globalization


Members of the examining committee:

Dr. Karin A. Siegmann [S


Freek Schiphorst [Reader

The Hague
, the Netherlands

November 2010

Women entrepreneurs in microenterprises of
informal economy of Harare and the prospects for
economic empowerment



This document represents part of the author’s study programme while at the
Institute of Social Studies. The views stated therein are those of the author and
not necessarily those of the Institute.


Postal address:

Institute of Social Studies

P.O. Box 29776

2502 LT The Hague

The Netherlands


Kortenaerkade 12

2518 AX The Hague

The Netherlands


+31 70 426 0460


+31 70 426 0799



First I thank Jehovah Go
d for blessing me with this opportunity to study in the
Netherlands. Secondly I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the fo
lowing people who contributed to the completion of this paper: My supervisor,
Dr. Karin A. Siegmann for her guidance that m
ade the journey a bit easier, Dr
Freek Schiphorst whose comments made me more focused and critical and the
rest of the ISS staff who contributed to the completion of this work. To my
fellow Work Employment and Globalisation colleagues, thank you for your
upport and contributions during and after the seminar presentations.

I wish to express my gratitude to the Netherlands Government through
the Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NUFFIC) for financial support du
ing the study period. My thanks also go to my
employer, The Public Service
Commission of Zimbabwe for granting me leave from work so that I could
come and gain new knowledge and skills. I am indebted to women who gave
their time and effort to answer to my research questions and not forgetting the
stry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development for direc
ing me to women entrepreneurs in the informal economy of Harare.

To my fellow students who went through this journey with me I would
like to appreciate your encouragement and support. Speci
al thanks go to P
tience Matandiko, Lydia Biriwasha, Gracious Ncube and the Zimbabwe co
munity at ISS for sharing my joys and pains and being my family away from
home. Finally to my family and friends whose prayers and words of encou
agement gave me the st
rength to move forward I say thank you and God bless.



To my husband, Joe for his love and sacrifice in allowing me to leave home
and his encouragement were my source of inspiration throughout this process.







List of Figures


List of Boxes


List of Acronyms




Chapter1: Introduction


ound of Entrepreneurship in the Informal Economy of Zimbabwe


1.1 The labour Market in Zimbabwe


1.2 Problem Statement


1.3 Just


1.4 Research Objective


1.5 Main Research Question


1.6. Sub Research Questions


7. Conclusion


Chapter2: Conceptual Framework and Literature Review


2.1 Characteristics of the Informal Economy


2.2 Conceptualising Empowerment of Women


2.3 Conclusion


Figure 2.1: Institutional Transformation


Chapter 3: Bac
kground of Women Economic Empowerment in


3.1 Women’s activities in the Informal Economy


3.2 Women’s access to Financial Resources.


3.3 Social Capital as means for Economic Empowerment


3.4 Women’s Rights to Land and Property


3.5 Change for economic empowerment.


Chapter 4: Methodology


4.1 Techniques for Data Generation


4.2 Data Analysis


4.3 Selection of the Research Location.


4.4 Description of the sample.


4.5 Limitations to the Study


4.6 Conclusion


Chapter 5: Letting Women Entrepreneurs Speak.



5.1 Increased Income for Economic Empowerment


Figure 5.1: Kolosa’s Poultry Project


Box 5.1: Economic Empowerment by Increased Income


5.2 Cultural Factors as makers of vulnerability.


Box 5.2: Entrepreneurship in the informal economy
as means of survival.


5.3 Alternatives for sustainability in adverse economic environment.


Figure 5.2: Glen Norah Flea Market


Box 5.3: Diversification as means of remaining competitive in
hyperinflation conditions


5 4 Unve
iling the down side of micro credit.


Figure 5.3: Woman Entrepreneur and her poultry project.


Box 5.4: High Interest rates and the hyperinflation condition.


5.5 Reflections on the Chapter


Chapter 6: Data Analysis: Productive Work for Economic


6.1 Entrepreneurship as a Source of Productive Work in the Informal


6.2 Impact of credit on decision making


Factors for Success or Failure of Women Entrepreneurs


6.3.1 Access to resources (credit).


6.3.2 Expressing agency in challenging gender norms.


6.3.3 Measuring Success

Error! Bookmark not defined.

6.4 Women Entrepreneurs’ Coping Strategies to constraints that hampers


6.4.1 Social Capital and Networking for Resources


6.4.2 Diversification as a way of coping with the hyperinflation


6.4.3 How women entrepreneurs cope with constraints caused by
cultural norms.


6.4 Reflections on the chapter


Chapter 7: Reflections on the paper and Conclusion


7.1 Productive work for Economic Empowerment


7.2 What to change


7.3 Reflections on Informality


7.4 Conclusion




Appendix 1: Respondents to Life History Interview


Appendix 2: Key Informants


pendix 3: Score Card



Appendix 4: Interview Guide for Life History


Interview Guide.


Appendix 5: Structured interview questions




List of Tables

Appendix 1: Respondents to Life History Interview


Appendix 2: Key Informants


List of Figures

Figure 1: Institutional Transformation


Figure 2: Kolosa’s Poultry Project


Figure 3: Glen Norah Flea Market


Figure 4: Woman Entrepreneur and her poultry project.


List of Boxes

Box 1: Economic Empowerment by Increased Income


Box 2: Entrepreneurship in the informal economy as means of survival.


Box 3: Diversification as means of remaining competitive in hyperinflation


Box 4: High Interest rates and t
he hyperinflation condition.



List of Acronyms


Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe


Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination


Common Markets for East and Southern Africa


Economic Structural Adjustment Programme


Government of National Unit


Human Rights Law Network


International Labour Organisation


Movement for Democratic Change


Governmental Organisation


People’s Bank


Post and Telecommunications


Small Enterprises Development Corporation


Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development


Short Term Economic Recovery Programme


United Nations


United Nations Development Fund for Women


United States Dollar


Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development


Women Development Savings and Credit Union


Women Investments Revitalisation and Empowerment


Zimbabwe African Natio
nal Union

Patriotic Front


Zimbabwe Dollars


Zimbabwe Women Entrepreneurs



Entrepreneurship in the informal economy of Harare, Zimbabwe is an i
portant livelihood strategy for women and has potential to economically e
power them. It has be
en observed that entrepreneurial initiatives increase their
income, enable them to provide for their families, reduce dependency on their
husbands, foster self esteem and greater participation in household decision
making. The paper aimed to give women ent
repreneurs’ voice on whether e
trepreneurship in the informal economy of Harare has accorded them an o
portunity to engage in productive work that is economically empowering. The
women shared their life history narrations on how they got involved in entr
reneurial activities in the informal economy and the challenges they faced as
they travelled through their entrepreneurial journey.

The paper uncovered that despite all the efforts of gender mainstrea
ing women still find it difficult to access credit and

they still face obstacles to
engage in productive work due to cultural norms and values that are e
trenched in social institutions. The paper concluded that beyond gender mai
streaming there is need for changes within institutions that makes it difficult
for women to access credit. There is also need for change in cultural instit
tions that perpetuate gender division of labour and other cultural norms that
prevents women from realising their potential and gainful employment.


Employment/ Informal Economy/Economic Empowerment/
Oriented versus Survivalist activities.


Chapter1: Introduction

Background of Entrepreneurship in the Informal Economy of

Entrepreneurship has been used as a tool to get women out of poverty by
ing self help projects that are meant to empower them economically.
Zimbabwe like in

African countries

investment in women’s microente
prises as a way of improving economic opportunity and employment gener
tion for

women has been the focus of development projects aimed at gender
equality (Ncube, 2009:37).

1.1 The labour Market in Zimbabwe

ESAP followed by
the economic and political hardships of the past two de
ades redefined the role played by women in the household as women become
more active in the informal economy as traders. Some women even became
breadwinners as their spouses struggled to secure formal


enterprises became an important source of employment and livelihood for
women in Zimbabwe.

The period starting from 1997 saw Zimbabwe getting into decade long
economic hardships with the manufacturing sector shrinking by 47 percent
n 1998 and 2006 (Coltart, 2008:2). This further pushed people into the
informal economy due to retrenchments. The other factors for economic crisis
included shortage of foreign currency, capital flight, withdrawal of official d
velopment assistance and for
eign investment resulting in rapid shrinking of the
economy, soaring unemployment estimated to be as higher than 75 percent
.The hyperinflation condition rapidly eroded earnings and profits made
by entrepreneurs. Annual inflation calculated on a mon
th to month basis
showed that Zimbabwe
surpassed 1000 percent in April 2006, 10

in October 2007
and unofficial reports stated that inflation rate was well above
e million per cent in June 2008

ebker, 2008:17).

The labour force survey of 20
04 showed uneven gender distribution of l
bour force with men counting for more than 75 per cent of formal emplo
ment(Luebker 2008:34). Furthermore there was high concentration of women
in micro and small enterprises of the informal economy

he sur
vey also
showed that
on employed persons by skills 70.4 percent of the unskilled people
are in the informal economy as enterprise owners. Since women make up the
majority of enterprise owners in the informal economy it can be concluded
that a very high per
centage of women lack skills and that is why they are co
centrated in the informal economy.

The inception of the Government of National Unit (GNU) saw the
launch of the Short Term Economic Recovery Programme (STERP) which
placed economic empowerment of wom
en at the top of its agenda (Ncube,
2009:37). GNU is a political agreement between Zimbabwe African National



Patriotic Front (ZANU
PF) which was the only ruling party and the
other two opposition parties, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC
ai and MDC
Mutambara) to form a coalition government after the
impasse of 2008 Presidential elections. Efforts to stabilise the economy have
been made and



allowed the use of a mu
ticurrency system which was adopted in Janua
ry 2009(Reserve Bank of Zimb
bwe, 2009:2).

Problem Statement

Despite all the efforts being made through gender mainstreaming there is still
little change and progress in women’s access to economic resources and access
to other factors that can make t
heir businesses successful. There is also, ‘widely
acknowledged poor performance of Zimbabwean female owned small and
medium enterprises relative to men owned’(Mboko and Smith
Hunter,2009:159). As Carter et al. (2003: 21) reiterates, “Resource decisions ar
the most important decisions entrepreneurs make, in terms of where to obtain
resources, which to acquire and how they will be used”.

Efforts of gender mainstreaming should be matched by the willingness
of women to fully participate in entrepreneurship ac
tivities not just as means
for survival but as productive employment for economic empowerment. The
problem has been that efforts such as microfinance have not matched wo
en’s expectations. In light of the above problem the question is whether there
are any

prospects for productive work for these women.


The focus for this research is to bring out real needs of women entrepreneurs
through their voices. It is against a background of macroeconomic challenges
in Zimbabwe that this stu
dy seeks to look at strategies employed by women
entrepreneurs to remain competitive in such oppressive environment. This r
search aims to give more appreciation of women who managed to sail through
the economic hardships of the past two decades, who are b
eing made invisible.

Why the focus on women entrepreneurs only and not compare them with men
is because women’s experiences are usually invisible as much concentration is
often on male entrepreneurs doing well in the formal economy. Policies on
gender equa
lity in access to productive employment are silent on the plight of
women operating in the informal economy of Zimbabwe
. Long standing in
ies in

gender distribution of economic and financial resources have
placed wom
en at a disadvantage in comparison

to men in th
eir capability to
participate, contribute

and benefit from the process of development

Research Objective

The main objective of this research was to investigate if

women entrepreneurs
eurship in the informal economy as an
opportunity for produ
tive employment that gives them economic empowerment.




How do

women entrepreneurs perceive informal entrepreneurship in terms of

potential for providing productive


that is economically empowering?



Do women entrepreneurs view entrepreneurship in the informal economy as a
source of economic empowerment as compared to formal employment and
secondly as compared to being full time housewives?

What are the factors that make women

succeed or fail in their entrepreneu
ship endeavours in the informal economy?

What are the coping strategies

employed by


entrepreneurs to ove


that threaten their success

1.7. Conclusion

The next chapter will give a debate of the
literature and the conceptual
framework that was used to guide in answering the research questions on how
women entrepreneurs perceive entrepreneurship, the constraints they face and
how they overcome them. This research draws on the literature relating to

characteristic of work in the informal economy, women’s economic empo
erment and access to credit. Kabeer (2001) Empowerment concept was used
to analyse the extent of empowerment and Rao and Kelleher (2005) Instit
tional framework guided the extent to whi
ch work in the informal economy
can be productive.



Framework and Liter
ture Review

2.1 Characteristics of the Informal Economy

There is no concluding definition of the informal economy s
ince its discovery

the 1970’s by British a

Keith Hart
. Spring (2009:12) defines
informal economy as, “referring to unregistered, unregulated, and untaxed
businesses, including service enterprises, production activities, and street ve
dor sales”.
The International Labour Organisation

ILO) broadened the co
cept of the informal sector

with a new definition which sees the informal
economy as comprising of informal employment, that is, employment without
formal contracts, not covered by labour legislation, worker benefits and social

(ILO, 2002:3).

The expanded de
finition incorporates

three perspectives of the inform

What can be concluded is that the informal economy is not a hom
geneous entity.

As m

labour market approach stresses that

informal econom
y is comprised of differen
t segments that have

different typ
of agents. There is

a lower
tier segment dominated by households engaging in
survival activities with few links to the formal economy, as dualists suggest; an
tier segment with micro
epreneurs who choose to avoid taxes and
regulations, as the legalists suggests; and an intermediate segment with micro
firms and workers subordinated to large firms, along the li
nes suggested by
(Bacchetta et al,2009:45).

The question is wh
ether it is possible to have productive work in the i
formal economy. The objective of employment will be achieved when people
can find work that yields a regular income sufficient to meet the basic needs of
their families as well as eradicating poverty (I
LO, 2007:39). In light of the fact
that dynamism exists in the type of entrepreneurial activities people in the i
formal economy are involved in, two types of enterprises were identified by
Berner et al. (2008:5) as survivalist and growth oriented enterpri
ses. Survivalist
enterprises represent a set of activities undertaken by people unable to secure
regular wage employment or access to economic sector of their choice. In ot
er words such entrepreneurs are present not by choice, innovation, motivation
or ri
sk taking initiatives but are there as a means of survival

. In a survi
ist enterprise it is the push factor of not finding opportunities in the labour
market that drives women to venture into self employment.

, et al. (2008:5) define
growth oriented enterprises as very small
businesses, often involving one owner, some family members and at most one
to four paid employees with limited capital base. Berner et al. (2008:6) chara
terises a growth oriented entrepreneur as a petty bourgeoisi
e ranked higher
than formal workers and have possession of some monetary resources, profe
sional, or technical skills and employ small number of workers they supervise
on direct, face
face basis.



Empowerment of Women

Kabeer (2001:17
) insists on the centrality of empowerment for the struggle to
achieve gender equality and stresses the need for power within which is power
rooted in self understanding that can inspire women to recognise and challenge
gender inequalities. Empowerment is
explained to mean the ability of women
to make choices or implies having alternatives in a context where this ability
was previously denied
. There are three inter
related dimensions making
choices. The first is resources which form the conditions u
nder which choices
are made, second is agency which is central to the process by which choices are
made and third is achievement which refers to the outcome of the choices
made (Kabeer, 2001: 18)

Kabeer (2001:28) states that, “resources are one remove from

choice b
cause they measure the potential rather than the actual choice because changes
in women’s resources will translate into changes in the choices they are able to
make depending on the conditions in which they are making the choices”. The
thing is how the resources are used. Women’s rights to resources
influence how th
ey perform in entrepreneurship.

These can be called women’s
objective conditions.
of credit is mentione

most frequently by struggling
small enterprises. This was confirm
ed by a study of 10 000 firms across 80
countries (Nichter and Goldmark, 2009:1457).

Women also lack time as an important resource that can make them pro
per in their activities. Gurley
Calvez et al (2009:4) did a research on time
use by
women entrepreneu
rs from 2003 to 2006 and reiterated that self employed
women spend less time in work
related activities and more time providing
child care than women in wage employment. Also that they spend more time
in, “secondary” child care, in which a parent is at the

same location as the child
but is primarily engaged in another activity such as work or household activ
ties. The time
use patterns are consistent with the hypothesis that women are
more likely to choose self
employment because of family commitments

Elson (1999, 2001) sees labour markets as gendered institutions operating
at the intersection of the productive and reproductive economies. Furthe
more, “unpaid care economy though outside the production boundary, its o
erations have implications for w
hat goes on inside the production economy”

(Elson, 2001:5).

This translated means that women’s less time spent on pr
ductive work means they earn less than

males. Furthermore, “domestic respo
sibilities penalize women in the labour market and are key facto
r in women’s
position in terms of earnings
” (
On the other hand

there are some women
who spend more time on their work but with less productivity benefits.

and Wodon(2010:45) defines time poverty as, “working long hours without
choice becaus
e an individual’s household is poor or would be at risk of falling
into poverty if the individual reduces her working hours below a certain time
poverty line”. Therefore time as a resource has an impact on how women do in
their entrepreneurial activities.

In light of the above it can be argued that what is important is for women
to have a sense of agency if they are to turn their resources into gainful e
ployment. Agency

relates to

the personal characteristics of individuals inclu
ing their knowledge, skill
s, political consci
ousness and commitment to what
they do (Rao and Kelleher
, 200
5:60). Rao and Kelleher

argue that
, for example


a woman who has

started and maintained a micro enterprise may

say she now
has self
confidence, however it is
possible that she m
ight have material r
sources but no influence

in access to market

or may be economically empo
ered but not free from discrimination in decision making.

This concept is rela
ed to Kabeer (2001:21) idea of agency which is defined as, ‘the ability to define
ne’s goals and act upon them’

Achievement is defined by Sen (1999) in Kabeer (2001:21) to mean fun
tionings or possible ways of being and doing (Kabeer, 2001:21). Indicators to
measure productivity and economic empowerment includes evidence of e
such as financial autonomy in terms of a woman entrepreneur cu
rently controlling her earnings and her earnings contributing to household i

What prevents women to achieve in entrepreneurial activities has to do
with inequitable

ral and religious practices and gender division of labour

by institutions preventing

women from being full parti
cipants in
productive work
as women continue to
bear the responsibility of
care of chi
dren and th
e elderly (Rao and Kelleher, 2005

Some studies suggest that,
the high marginal value of home time for women during certain periods of
their lives is a principal constraint to the growth of female
owned enterprises

Furthermore it can also be argued that

formal institutions
have impact
on achievement of women entrepreneurs because they have the power and
ideology to decide on judicial, economic, social and political environment that
business operates in (Rao and Kelleher, 2005:65).

Women’s entrepreneurial
activities take plac
e within institutional context and therefore whether gaining
skills, developing consciousness or making decisions, individual empowerment
takes place within the structural constraints of institutions and practices.

Nichter and Goldmark (2009:1459) note tha
t the availability of gainful
business activities depends on the economic environment present. They point
to the relationship between the economic environment and entrepreneurship
in that micro enterprises tend to expand in numbers during economic dow
s due to an increase in survivalist
type of activities.

In this research, individual perceptions of the environment by the inte
viewed women entrepreneurs indicated the type of environment they operated
under. There were some who got favourable business op
portunities because of
the economic crisis. Many analysts describe the Zimbabwe business enviro
ment as hostile to business firms. Price volatility characterised by high inflation
was the order of the day before the coming in of the new government and the
introduction of a multicurrency

2.3 Conclusion

In order to determine if women are benefiting through entrepreneurship in the
formal economy Rao and Kelleher


Institutional Transformation
concept which

argues that changes need
to happen
along four dimensions that

level of individual men and
level of society as a whole, in the
formal and informal spheres
. These were used to analyse the extent to which
women’s entrepreneurial activities have offered them an opportunity for p
ductive work.


: Institutional Transformation

The first dimension mentioned by Rao and Kelleher is that of women and
men’s consciousness, knowledge and commitment.

Transformation of gender
relations will lead to equal participation in econo
mic, political and socia
l activ
ties that have an impact

on development and empowerment. This requires
changes to deep
seated v
alues and relationships

held in place by power and

(Rao and Kelleher, 2005:60).

The second dimension is that of women’s

rights, opportunities and access
to resources.

The argument is that ‘beyond mainstreaming there is need for
institutional transformation to facilitate equal access to and control over mat
rial and symbolic resources

(Rao and Kelleher, 2005:63)

Access to
credit fo
mally is restricted by issues such as the requirement of collateral by banks b
fore an individual is given a loan.

Thirdly, what need to be transformed are the informal cultural norms and
inequitable practices such as gender division of labour
if women are to prosper
in their activities.

Lastly, transformation should take place in the formal institutions such as
policies to do with access to credit for women entrepreneurs.

change was

judged on whether appropriate policies have bee
n implemented
nd progress has been achieved in women’s access to resources (Rao and
Kelleher, 2005:64

The next chapter will look at the background of women’s economic e
powerment in Zimbabwe. The focus will be on changes that have taken place
in instit
utions to promote women’s rights for equal access to productive r
sources as a way of ensuring productive work and economic empowerment of
women entrepreneurs.


Chapter 3:

of Women Economic
Empowerment in Zimbabwe

3.1 Women’s activities in the

Informal Economy

border trading refers to trading activities in which individuals go into
other countries for purposes of trading.

border trading is acknowledged
as one of the few women
dominated branches of the informal economy
(Muzvidziwa, 2
001:67). In Zimbabwe cross
border trading is an important
source of livelihood whereby people especially women go to South Africa,
Botswana, and Zambia engage in trading activities. Products from cross
trading are usually sold at flea

markets acros
s the country. During the ec
ic hardships of the past decade in Zimbabwe cross

border traders specia
ised in importing basic commodities such as maize meal, cooking oil and soap
into the country. Women are also involved in various activities such as po
projects, vending and food catering.

3.2 Women’s access to Financial Resources.

Microfinance institutions are an important source of creating opportunities for
women to engage in income generating projects. Some microfinance instit
tions did survey
s on the impact of microfinance to women’s economic e
powerment and concluded that entrepreneurship with loan assistance leads to
increased income and decreased vulnerability for most women (Barnes et al.,

In Zimbabwe there are organisations offe
ring micro
credit to women e
trepreneurs operating in the informal economy. Ministry of WAGCD assists

women to start income generating projects such as peanut butter making, cross
der trading and even venture into male dominated are
as such as mining.

also organises and link women to national, regional and international
xhibitions for women in

trading (Chipere 2010, key informant inte
In addition,

Ministry of

Small to Medium Enterprises and Cooperative
Development (SMECD) has a

licy and strategy framework aimed at ec
nomic empowerment of micro, small to med
ium enterprises in Zimbabwe.

this is not spec
ifically for women (Dube 2010, key informant pe
sonal interview). The ministry
highlighted that women are a key group that

med in the policy.

The loans from this ministry are administered by
orporation (SEDCO).

The recent developments in Zimbabwe of a GNU is said to have prior
tised women entrepreneurs as a way of addressing gender d
isparities in the
economic environment (Ncube, 2009:37). Ministry of SMECD has a Micro
and Medium Enterprise Policy and Strategy framework that aim to relax some
of the collateral requirements as a measure to ensure that women benefit from


SEDCO and 30 per

cent of its funds must benefit women
the reality has been that women still find accessing loans in financial instit
tions difficult due to the requirement of collateral. SEDCO is one of the inst
tution that claim to advocate for women
’s economic empowerment but the
requirements to apply for loan are beyond what women can afford. These i
clude proof of ownership of assets pledged as collateral, proof of operating
premises and bank statement for the past three months (Chingwe 2010, key
nformant personal interview).

3.3 Social Capital as

for Economic Empowerment

Social capital emerges from the norms, networks and relationships of the social
structure in which an individual lives, potentially producing useful resources
for business

through development of sets of obligations and expectations, i
formation channels and social norms that reinforce certain type of beha
iour(Carter et al.:2003:6).

Women Development Savings and Credit Union (WDSCU) objective

is to provide education and tra
ining in various disciplines in order to inform
and empower women through Women Investments Revitalisation and E
powerment (WIRE) program

(Motsi 2010, key informant personal interview)
It’s a financial co
operative society that provides financial services

only to its
members who are supposed to buy shares and keep a minimum deposit of


The assistance

offered women include training of members on
gardening, poultry, mushroom business, peanut butter making and business

As highlighted
by Kuada (2009:85), “female entrepreneurs tend to have
more difficulties in accessing bank financing but they compensate by cultiva
ing social relationships and using the social capital derived from them as a r
source leveraging mechanism”. An example of w
omen entrepreneurs who take
advantage of social networking is that of an association called Zimbabwe
Women Entrepreneurs (ZWE). The association was started in 2002 by some
women entrepreneurs who where finding it difficult to access loans from banks
due to

collateral requirements and other constraints(Jonga 2010, key informant
interview). They pull resources together and support each other’s business ve
tures through lending each other money and information sharing on how and
where a person can get relevant

assistance for their business ventures

The association also established strong ties with other formal institutions such
as ministry of WAGCD.

3.4 Women’s Rights to Land and Property

Access to financial resources such as loans from formal institu
tions requires a
person to have property or an asset in their name. Women‘s rights to land and
property are firmly recognized under international law but at country level
there is still persistence of discriminatory laws, policies, patriarchal customs
attitudes that block women from enjoying property


rights(Benschop,2004:3).For example in Zimbabwe there was a case in which
the Supreme Court ruled that a Ms. Magaya could not inherit her deceased f
ther’s land, because customary law does not permit women
to inherit and the
Constitution still allowed for discrimination in such matters(
). It is only
now that a girl can inherit the property of their father but only if there is no
son or sons in the family. Such discrimination against women limits their p
tential to access resources for expansion of their operations.

Inheritance and entitlement to property for married women depends on
the type of marriage union. There is civil marriage, registered customary ma
riage and unregistered customary marriage. If
a woman is in registered and u
registered customary marriage she is not entitled to the husband’s property and
cannot inherit the property in the case of death of husband. The sad thing is
that many women are married customarily and in the case of rural Zi
marriage union of 80 per cent of people is customary (OECD, 2009:1). Ho
ever, most women who have civil marriage unions are excluded from registr
tion of title deeds to land or properties. At the same time spouses have to m
tually agree on co
hip of property or land and take active steps to do so,
which are usually demanding due to institutional constraints


3.5 Change for


This chapter looked at what has been done in Zimbabwe to promote women’s
rights to productive

factors such as capital. The conclusion made was that d
spite all the efforts for gender mainstreaming women still face obstacles in
their efforts to access resources and other means of production. If women are
to prosper in their entrepreneurial activiti
es changes must still take place to f
cilitate women’s ownership of property to boost their chances of getting loans
from formal credit lending institutions.

The next chapter will highlight the operationalization of the research in
terms of selection of re
search techniques, research location, respondents and
methods of data analysis. The chapter will also look at the limitation to the
study as experienced by the researcher.


Chapter 4:

The study aimed at investigating how women entrepreneurs
perceive entrepr
neurship in the informal economy in terms of its potential to offer them work
that is productive. At the same time the aim was to look at factors that make
women successful in their operations.

4.1 Techniques for Data Generation

Life hist
ory interviews were carried out with six women at different levels and
categories of the informal economy.

Purposive sampling
technique of

based or operational construct sampling which defines a sample to be made up
of incidents, slices of life or p
eople that have potential manifestation or repr
sentation of important theoretical or conceptual construct was used to select
respondents (Patton, 1990). The purpose for choosing such women was to a
swer the question relating to factors for success and fai
lure of women opera
ing as entrepreneurs in the informal economy of Harare. (See Appendix


demographics of respondents).The choice of women entrepreneurs targeted
women who have benefited from credit lending institution and those who have
not in order

to determine if such access to loans has an impact on the perfo
mance of women entrepreneurs (See appendix


The researcher chose this technique because, ‘it is through story that we
gain context and recognise meaning and story makes the hidden to be se
(Atkinson, 1998:7). A life history most often focuses on a specific aspect of a
person’s life

In this case the focus was the life of a woman as an entr
preneur in the informal economy of Zimbabwe and the challenges she faces in
endeavouring for
productive work. The interviews were carried out in Shona
which is a local language in Harare. The researcher transcribed and translated
to English. The way the life history stories are presented is as close as possible
to what the women said.

To uphold th
e principal of confidentiality in research
the names of all respondents have been changed since some of the information
provided is sensitive to political and economic situations in Zimbabwe.

An interview guide
focusing on the dimensions on the


work and literature reviewed was made. Each of the
dimensions was to be co

during the in
depth interview.

This would help

to further probe sensitive
and unclear answers

(See Appendix


Primary data collected was mainly of qualitative nature.
The reason was
that the objective of this study was to give women entrepreneurs a voice r
garding their entrepreneurial activities.

The advantage of qualitative methods is
that it helps uncover and expand the range of issues and allows us to be more
ve about conceptualizing and measuring the social processes (Berik,

The research took

the approach of social construction in order to find out
how women entrepreneurs view

entrepreneurship and i
n their view what


taking to remai
n competitive in their entrepreneurial activ
Hill and McGowan (1999:9) points out that s
ocial construction is about


the way people construct their social world and it’s about meaning people give
to their own action and the a
ctions of others. Furtherm
ore they acknowledged
that in researching social issues it is important to take note of ontological issues
of multiple realities and the only reality is that constructed by respondents to

This is because reality can only be
created by indivi
uals and cannot be prescribed.
The purpose of this research

to tell stor
about women engaged in entrepreneurship as a way of generating income and
to find out their

challenges and strategies that make the
m successful or not

Structured interviews were carried out with 19 women entrepreneurs ope
ating at a flea market in Glen Norah (See Appendix 5). Snowball or chain sa
pling was used to identify cases of women entrepreneurs who have been ope
ating for a period of more tha
n ten years in the informal economy of Zimb
bwe. According to Patton (1990:176) snowball or chain sampling is an a
proach for locating information
rich key informants and it begins by intervie
ing a person and they will lead you to another person with the
traits you are
looking for and the sample becoming bigger as you accumulate information
rich cases. The snowball began by the researcher being given names of a few
women who have been operating for a long time at that flea market by the
chairperson of the
market. After interviews with these women the researcher
was then referred to other women in similar circumstances.

A focus group discussion was carried out with the members of an associ
tion called Zimbabwe Women Entrepreneurs (ZWE).
Discussants were sel
ed by sending out general questionnaires at ZWE’s monthly meeting to match
my respondents with the characteristics of women I wanted to interview. A
total of nine women agreed to participate in the focus group discussion. As
Cronin(2002:170) points out
having focus groups of more than ten people
poses challenges to the facilitator such as difficult to maintain control over the

nterviews were carried out with officials from The Ministry

.and WAGCD, an organisation called WDSCU and SEDCO

to find out what
policies have been put in place and how such policies are helping women to
gain economic empowerment through sustainable entrepreneurship activities.
Why I chose these organisations is because of their direct link with women e
operating in the informal economy.

To distinguish whether a woman entrepreneur was growth
oriented or su
vivalist a score card developed by Berner, et al. (2008:5) was administered. A
score of below 10 means that the activities an entrepreneur is engaged i
n are
survivalist Women who had a score of 0 to 5 would be running very poor su
vivalist activities followed by those with a score of 6 to 10. Those with a score
of 11 and above would be assumed to be operating growth
oriented enterpri
es (See appendix 3).

4.2 Data Analysis

Gender sensitive indicators were

used to evaluate the outcomes of gender
focused and mainstream interventions and policies, assess challenges to success
and recommend

programmes and activities to better achieve gender equality


goals and
reduce adv
erse impacts on women as suggested by Rao and Kelleher,
2005 quoted in Moser (2007:6). An important factor raised by Rao and Kell
her (2005:62) is that ‘to accomplish sustainable and deep
rooted changes, f
nancing for gender equality must recogni
se women as active economic agents
that are central to a vibrant economy’. That is why this research focuses on
women’s voices.

The life history interviews were carried out in Shona, a local language and
recorded using a voice recorder. The researcher then

transcribed and translated
into English the interviews. The presentation of what women said is as closely
as possible to the actual interviews although the translation is that of the r

The limitation faced by the researcher in data analysis was
the fact that li
erature found on how businesses cope with hyperinflation scenarios was mai
ly on the formal organisations and not much on the informal economy. The
findings on the coping strategies mainly points to how the women coped.

4.3 Selection of t
he Research Location.

Harare is the largest town and capital city of Zimbabwe. Why Harare was ch
sen is that it is the researcher’s home town and therefore was convenient.

location of


women trade
rs depended on the sample collected
Ministry of WAGCD and WDSCU

(See Appendix 1).

The venue for the focus group discussion was Mukwati government
complex in the central business district were ZWE women meet for their
monthly meetings. It was convenient for the researcher and the women since
the ZWE women would have come for their monthly meeting. The researcher
also took advantage of the meeting to observe how these women are using s
cial capital and to get information from proceedings of the meeting.

4.4 Description of the sample.

Women int
erviewed were mostly above 40 years of age. This was because r
spondents required should have been operating in the informal economy for a
period of more than ten years. These were assumed to have experienced the
economic hardships of the past decade opera
ting as entrepreneurs in the i
formal economy. It turned out that those who fit the sample were in that age

The demographics of the women showed that 68 percent of women
interviewed were married. 20 percent were widowed and the rest were just
gle. It turned out that marital status has also an impact on how women view
their entrepreneural activities in terms of what motivated them to get engaged
in entrepreneural work in the informal economy.

The findings on educational attainment showed that on
ly three women
had a professional qualification. Two of the three had Higher National Dipl
ma qualification from polytechnic institutions in the fields of building and a
counting and the other had a diploma in primary level teaching. The rest of the


indicated that they had gone to school up to the ordinary level with a
few below that level.

4.5 Limitations to the Study

The sampling method used for this research to a greater extent narrows the
space to give a general and broader perspective on women o
perating as entr
preneurs in the informal economy of Zimbabwe. A sample of 25 women e
trepreneurs and in depth interviews through life history cannot be generalised.
The aim of the analysis for this research was to give individual meaning to e
ip in the informal economy.

The other limitation was that the snowball or chain sampling used had
the danger of the researcher getting women with similar characteristics thereby
limiting the scope of what could be learnt from the diversity of women opera
ng in the informal economy as entrepreneurs.

The other challenge faced was that some government departments
were reluctant at first to offer assistance. Firstly they were sceptical because
they treat government policies as confidential information. The res
earcher had
to write an application letter for authority to do research and in one depar
ment it was approved after two weeks. Getting hold of government policy
documents was still restricted even after approval to do research. The obstacle
was overcome by

identifying another organisation that could offer the same
assistance and the organisation approached was WDSCU.

4.6 Conclusion

The chapter focused on the operationalization of the research and gave
literature support of the choice of data collection and

how the data was co
lected from the field.

Chapter 5 will now tell the stories of four women who are operating as e
trepreneurs at different levels of the informal economy. the chapter gives more
space to women’s voices and in the background are the views

of key infor
ants, focus group discussants and women interviewed using structured que


Chapter 5:

Women Entrepreneurs

5.1 Increased Income for Economic Empowerment

Figure 5.1:

Poultry Project

Source: Fieldwork

Chitungwiza, Harare August 2010

Ms Kolosa never imagined herself as a self employed person as she was
employed in a formal job as a sales person. She is a qualified accountant with a
higher national diploma in accounting from Harare Polytechnic

College. Ge
ting into self employment according to her was by chance or coincidence.

used to work for Bath and Tile World shop as a sales person from 2000 up to
2004 before her poultry business and getting an equivalent of USD250 salary
that was not e
nough to pay rent and look after her my two children. Her hu
band died in 1999 and since he was self
employed he did not have any pension
for her to take care of the family. She said that fate made her meet Alfonso an
Angolan man who introduced her to the
Irvine’s chicken breeder’s scheme.
She has a poultry project which she operates from the backyard of her home in
Chitungwiza, Harare. Chitungwiza is a high density suburb in the eastern side
of Harare city centre. Chitungwiza shares a boundary with Irvine’
s chicken
breeders which explain why people living in that area are involved in poultry
farming.below is the continuation of her story.


Box 5.1: Economic Empowerment by

Increased Income

It was in 2003 that I met Alfonso who had a poultry project at a plo
t ou
side Westgate in Harare. He had come to buy some material for the fowl runs
he was expanding at the farm he operated from. He told me he was expanding
his poultry business and asked me if I had a fowl run so I can assist him to
keep some as he was exp
anding his project. He told me that he was keeping
between 3,000 and 10,000 birds during a single period and this was fetching
him between USD6000 and USD20,000 depending on the number he had. I
was impressed and asked him how he managed to do it. It turne
d out that he
had a contract with Irvine’s the largest chicken breeders in Zimbabwe. The
arrangement was that he would be given chickens and chicken feeds by Irvine’s
and when they mature for selling Irvine’s would buy back the chickens at
USD2 per bird. Y
ou just needed to have your national identity document and
their Inspectors would come and assess the place you would be operating
from. I started out by helping him to keep some of his birds and he would pay
me commission. It was in 2005 that he helped me

get the same contract al
hough at a smaller scale because I kept them at the back of my yard which is
not that big. I started with 500 birds and this was paying 10times more than I
got in my formal job.

The economic pressures forced Irvine’s’ to scale do
wn its operations and
my contract was terminated just a year after. I had resigned from my formal
job. How was I then going to take care of the family? I started diversifying into
other things just for me to have my head above the waters. I went into cross
border trading (See Appendix 6) in 2006 and I would bring things that were in
short supply in this country such as groceries or basic items like soap, maize
meal and sugar. To maintain the value of my money I would immediately co
vert it into USD or SAR.
The official exchange rate at the bank was too low so
the only option was the black market (parallel market). We ended up selling in
USD and other currencies because the Zimbabwe dollar was nowhere to be
found and when found it would lose value very quickl
y. Business was brisk b
cause shops were literally empty and people survived by buying from us. I even
bought myself an ex
Japanese Toyota LiteAce vehicle for USD2000 and this
has been the greatest investment I have made so far.

In 2008 after the governmen
t of National Unity, I got my Irvine’s’ co
tract again because they were now increasing their production. I am given 500
birds after every six weeks. That means with USD2 per bird I get USD1000
after keeping them to maturity in six weeks time. If I had a b
igger place it
could be more. I am now moving to a bigger place at a plot outside Harare in
Goromonzi which I will be paying USD1000 per month which has the capacity
to carry 20 000 birds. I am in the process of registering my company because
that is a req
uirement by Irvine’s if I am to get a bigger project I have 2 emplo
ees but will be employing more as my operations expand.

It has been difficult for me because at times people take advantage of me
just because I am a widow. Men see me as an easy target t
o have an affair with
when I require favours for my business. It has been through ZWE association
that I have managed to boost my confidence. I get ideas, information and o
portunities through interacting with these women. Last year, 2009 I applied for


a l
oan from Zimbabwe Bank (ZB bank) and I was given USD2000 after they
came and assessed what I was doing and they required me to provide proof of
residence, open a bank account and fill the application form for loan. It was
through ZWE that I came to know ab
out the loan and procedure for applying.

I have managed to attend ZimTrade workshops on how to start and su
tain a business. I also get to attend trade fairs and exhibitions locally and ou
side the country organised by WAGCD. It is through ZWE that the go
ment offers us assistance such as having our products crossing boarders duty
free as a way of promoting women entrepreneurs

Were I am right now I would not wish to work for anyone. This business
has given me an opportunity to earn a living and at the
same time the freedom
to be in control of my time. I realised that there was potential to earn more
money in this than the work I had as an accountant or sales person. For sure it
has paid off. I have children who are of school going age and they need me t
prepare for school and to be home in time when they come back. This has
been possible because of being self employed. This has given me an opportun
ty to take care of my family. My children go to good schools because I can a
ford and I know I am investin
g in their future through good education (Kolosa
2010, Personal Interview).

Kolosa talked about how she has benefited from WAGCD because of b
ing a member of ZWE. As WAGCD deputy director reiterated, their Ministry
has gone a long way in empowering women
by unveiling the scope of business
for them and help them network with various other businesswomen in the
world. He however acknowledged that there is need to fund women so that
they may start new and bigger projects (Mr Chipere 2010, personal interview).
He accepted that the amount of money given to women to start projects is not
enough for them to venture into high productivity activities. He gave the e
ample of the new fund for women entrepreneurs that give a maximum of
USD1000 per woman and these women
have to go into groups of five and
open a bank account with People’s Bank. There is no need for collateral and
women guarantor each other in the group of five they are in.

The next case gives a different picture with a woman struggling to make
ends meet as

an entrepreneur in the informal economy. She has never benefi
ed from any loan and is vulnerable compared to Kolosa.

5.2 Cultural Factors as makers of vulnerability.

Mrs Madziva has been operating a tuck shop at the back of her yard in
Mbare, Harare for

the past 10 years. Mbare is the oldest suburb for native
Zimbabweans in Harare. She is a 54 year old married woman with 1 child u
der age and 4 grandchildren as her dependants. Two of the grandchildren b
long to her deceased first born son whom she said d
ied in 2007. She went to
school up to grade 7 which is primary school level. She used to depend on her
husband before venturing into entrepreneurship in the informal economy.


Since the husband lost his job he has been trying to control the use of the

she gets and is always suspicious that she is excluding him from the use
of even small discretionary funds.

Box 5.2: Entrepreneurship in the informal economy as means of survival.

Mrs Madziva

My husband was involved in an industrial strike in the early
2000s. U
fortunately he and all involved in the strike were

dismissed from wo
rk in 2001.
He used to work for Post and Telecommunications (PTC). Up to today he has
not received his benefits and he has not even got any other employment.

used to depend on m
y husband for everything. Every morning he would leave
me money to buy basic food for the day such as milk, bread and meat. He
would expect me to have some money saved from the previous day. You know
the inflation situation. The money was never enough. He
would scold me sa
ing I was extravagant and useless. That really pained me. I started saving a bit
from what he was leaving me and started my business of selling grocery stuff
such as bread, sugar, tea leaves and salt from my backyard

.the year 2000. M
sband was furious
when I started

selling at our backyard. He said I was e
barrassing him and his friends were going to laugh at him
. He was still going to
work but now

his life depends on my work here but he does not seem to a
preciate though.

As you can
see this place is far away from the shopping centre so pe
ple in this neighbourhood come to buy here. I sell groceries from my home
and my husband never helps me out. He does not go to work but if I ask him
to look after the tuck
shop when I am not around

he refuses. I have to close it
and open again when I come back. I sleep late because customers come way
into the night to buy tomatoes, cigarettes and other items. I also have to wake
up early to sell to people going to work. I also have my household chor
es like
cleaning, cooking and taking my granddaughter for child care. All day long he
will be drinking chibuku (cheap African beer) with his friends. He has given up
looking for a job. I used to sell meat, ice creams and freezits (frozen fruit fl
voured dr
inks). Business was brisk especially with kids buying ice creams and
freezits. One day I came back from visiting my mother and found that my
husband had sold the deep freezer (Refrigerator). This was in 2005 and my
business never recovered the blow. My hus
band said he needed the money and
assets are supposed to give him that. I am customarily married so I could not
report him anywhere or question what he used the money for. In 2007 he sold
our residential stand for building our home. You see, this place we
stay at b
longs to my late in
laws and we stay with my husband’s sister and younger
brother. We cannot claim ownership. The residential property my husband
sold was my only hope of building my own home. I almost died with high
blood pressure. I have not fu
lly recovered and I am on medical treatment.

We now survive on what I get from selling these items. I would say my
profits are around USD150 per month. This is not very much but at least we
stay at a house we do not pay rent for. The money is enough to bu
y the basics
but we cannot afford other things. We just learnt to leave within our means but
the challenge is my husband wanting money to go out to drink. However it is


only recently that I am able to realise such profits. When we were using the
Zimbabwe d
ollar life was tough especially during the period 2006 to 2008. You
would horde items at a lower price in the morning, put your profit margin and
sell. The following morning you would go to buy the same product and find
them even ten times more expensive.
That means I would not afford to horde
them again. Life was tough my dear. I later resorted to changing my money
into US Dollars or South African Rands. That way I maintained the value of
my money. This was not easy though because we had to go to the black

or i
formal markets and the police would arrest you if they see you doing the tran

I have never tried to apply for a loan before. Loans from the bank and
SEDCO requires collateral in the forms of title deeds, I do not have any asset
in my name so
I know I will not qualify for any loan. Besides, what if I fail to
repay the loan? Its better I live within my means. Some grants are sometimes
given here in Mbare. In 2003 and in 2007 presidential elections we were told to
give our names to the ZNU
PF cou
ncillor so that we would be given some
grants to start income generating projects They took our names but you always
hear other people being given and my turn never comes. It is the same women,
who are also in the Women’s League of the Party (ZANU
PF) who
get the
benefits. If you do not go to political rallies and be seen as a party member you
will never benefit from those grants. Even to get a stand to sell from the ma
ket you need a party card. The chairperson of the Mbare market is a ZANU
PF councillor a
nd so you need to be attending party rallies and meetings. I
cannot do that because I do not belong to that party.

Madziva’s story of never trying to apply for a loan is shared by many women i.
Interviews with women entrepreneurs at Glen Norah flea market

showed that
the majority of women had never benefitted from a loan and are no longer
forthcoming in looking for such opportunities (Glen Norah Respondents
2010, personal interviews). However the next story shows that micro
credit per
se is not a panacea f
or success of women entrepreneurs.


5.3 Alternatives for sustainability in adverse economic env

Figure 5.2: Glen Norah Flea Market

Source: Fieldwork pictures

Glen Norah flea market, Harare, Taken August 2010

Mrs Banda is a married 51years old

woman with two children and her
husband as her dependents. She went to school up to ordinary level. Her hu
band is a retired police officer who went on pension due to ill health. Mrs
Banda is an owner of a flea market selling clothes for both sexes and di
age groups
. She used to be a full time housewife depending on her husband
who was a police officer. In 2002 her husband got seriously ill and had to be
on sick leave from work for two months. That is when she said she realised
that if anything was
to happen to him her family was going to be in financial
trouble(Banda 2010, personal interview). What motivated her to start this bus
ness was that she wanted to assist her husband because the salary he was ge
ting was no longer enough to sustain the fami
ly because of the economic crisis
the country was facing. She said they could only afford one meal per day and
paying school fees for the children was a nightmare for them because the
money was never
there. The following is her narration of her journey in



Box 5.3:
Diversification as means of remaining competitive in hyperinflation cond

The period around 2000

women used to go to South Africa and Mozambique
to bring second hand clothing for resell. I decided to get into that business but
I lacked the capital to do so because most of my husband’s salary was going
towards his medication. One day in early 2003 I s
old the sewing machine I was
given by my sister as a wedding present and I also sold my family’s second
hand cloths as a start up capital for my business.

I went into cross border trading in 2005. I went to South Africa with some
crocheted table cloths and

covers for sofas. I would exchange them for good
second hand clothes and bring them back home for reselling. From trading in
South Africa I brought home close to USD1000 worth of goods for resale each
month. We even extended our home from a four roomed co
re house to an
eight roomed one. Each child has their own bedroom now. My children attend
good schools because I can afford it. I always thank God for this opportunity.

I diversified into other things such as artefacts from wood and lime stone
and would g
o to sell them in Cape Town, South Africa. These were of tourist
attraction and they gave more money. I brought home more than I used to
bring before. On one occasion I came with USD2000. The challenge was that I
had to stay in Cape Town for a period longe
r than usual. At times it would take
me three to four weeks before I could return home but I would bring a lot of
money. People started saying negative things about it to my husband who later
became sceptical. People would say that I now have another man i
n South A
rica who was keeping me there for longer periods. My trips to Cape Town b
came restricted and I would also not feel comfortable to stay for longer b
cause it was causing problems with my husband. I then took my husband on
one of my trips and that
’s when he appreciated what I was doing. I am now
free to make decisions on the business. My husband trusts my decisions now
although at times it’s difficult to convince him.

My husband had to go on early retirement due to ill health in 2006. He
was given

his pension and due to inflation the lump sum money was not even
enough to buy a bicycle. We were disappointed but life goes on so I conce
trated more on the flea market. I tried to apply for a loan from SEDCO in
2006. They required an applicant to have t
itle deeds as collateral. Firstly I had
no property in my name as collateral since the house is in my husband’s name.
Secondly, the payback time was too early. In 2007 there seemed to be no banks
or money lenders giving loans. I think it was because of sho
rtage of cash and
the hyperinflation situation whereby the money lost its value every day. Then
last year my husband refused to be my guarantor for a loan I wanted to apply
from ZB bank because he said it was too risky if I was not going to be able to
back. I wanted the loan so that I would rent a boutique shop at Makoni
shopping centre and increase my stock. Those are the challenges of being a
woman. Men do not think that we are capable of such big decisions. I have
now decided to look for opportunitie
s without telling him and then tell him
after I get the rewards. I am working on partnering one of the ladies in our a
sociation (ZWE) who rents a shop at Glen Norah shopping centre so we could


share the place and share the rent. It has become expensive fo
r her to maintain
it on her own. I will only tell my husband after I have moved my items then I
know he will not be able to stop me.

I am a member of ZWE and although I have not yet benefited from a
loan I have learn a lot from these women. I have been lin
ked to opportunities
which I would not have realised if I was working alone. I get market for my
products and new ideas on products needed. I am going for the exhibition in
Swaziland next week. This will be my first time to benefit from the money we
are co
ntributing as a group. The money will be a revolving fund and when we
come back we will pay it back with 10percent interest.

The economic pressures and hyperinflation situation became worse in
2007 but my advantage was that I always kept my money either in

SAR or
USD. That way I maintained the value of my money. It became unprofitable to
bring clothes from South Africa because people were no longer able to afford
them. Formal shops for groceries were empty and I decided to bring groceries.
I would bring box
es of cooking oil, washing soap and maize flour. Since a pe
son was allowed to bring into the country USD300 worth of goods without
paying import duty fee, I took advantage of this and would go with my two
children to increase the amount of goods duty free
. At times I would just look
for people in the bus who did not have many goods to assist me in crossing the
border with the excess I would be having(Banda 2010, personal interview)

The sentiments of Mrs Banda were shared by the focus group discu
who pointed to lack of collateral as their major obstacle to access to r

. The collateral condition sounded ironic to them because it was in the
first place denying women access to resources for accumulation of property.
Most of the women in this
group are middle aged and they got married during
the period when property was registered in the name of the husband only.
They pointed out that customarily a married woman belongs to her husband
and everything they have from houses to cars are in the name

of the husband.

The women also complained that some men also believe that if you give pro
erty rights to a woman she will no longer be submissive because they would be
more equal and that she might end up killing the husband to gain overall co
trol of the

assets. Of concern to them was the fact that the process of changing
title deeds when the husband dies is so costly that most women leave the
property in the name of the late husband. To have a woman’s name added to
the title deeds is also costly and it t
akes years to happen because of bureaucra
ic red tape. (Focus Group Discussants August 2010, Focus group discussion)

Focus group discussants also pointed out those formal institutions
such as banks are to blame for capital constraints faced by these women.

mal institutions are said to contradict with the government in terms of policies
to do with women’s access to resources. For example they highlighted the case
of the deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe press address were she was
introducing loan mone
y to be disbursed to women entrepreneurs through
SEDCO. The deputy Prime
Minister stated that collateral was not going to be
a condition for getting this loan. Instead guaranteeing and assessment of bus
ness activities were to be used. The focus group disc
ussants indicated that they
went to SEDCO and the collateral requirement is still there.


5 4 Unveiling the down side of micro credit.

Figure 5.3: Woman Entrepreneur and her poultry project.

Source: Fieldwork Pictures

Chitungwiza, Harare: August 2010

Mrs Madondo is a 46 years woman entrepreneur involved in poultry
business. She is married and has three children at school going age.

She went
to school up to ordinary level. She built a poultry house at the back of her
home in Chitungwiza in 2002 and star
ted out with 50 birds. Her business grew
and by 2004 she was keeping 300 birds. She was then introduced by a friend to
get a loan from Zambuko Trust. According to her this was the beginning of
her problems in her business.


Box 5.4:
High Interest ra

and the hyperinflation condition.

I used to have orders from pe
ople who have catering businesses and
for weddings and other functions. People appreciated my chickens
because they were big and real value for their money.

I wanted to e
pand my project and my friend introduced me to Zambuko Trust in 2004.
This organisati
on was giving loans to women who wanted to start projects
and to those who already had projects but wished to expand. Getting a loan
from Zambuko Trust was the biggest business mistake I have ever made.
The lady at the office did not fully explain to me ab
out the interest rates. It’s
now a long time back but as I recall more than half of what I got from my
project was now paying back Zambuko Trust. I was literally working to pay
back the money and the interest. I used part of the money to buy more
and feed. The remainder I used to pay electricity bill because
chickens need constant light to keep them warm so my electricity bill was

The high inflation situation did not help. I would sell my chickens at a
tain price that I would have calculat
ed to give me profit. By the time I
finished selling them the money would have been affected by devaluation of
the Zimbabwe dollar. I used to sell my chickens on credit and by the time I
realised that the value of the money would not be the same it was too

At the same time I had a bank account with Barclays bank and I would d
posit my money as a way of saving after selling my chickens. When there
was shortage of cash it was difficult to access my money. I still have it
banked but its worthless ZWD now

In 2006 I stopped completely because I could not afford to buy the
ens and in 2007 production of chickens seemed to have declined b
cause of the economic troubles. It was difficult to get them from formal
hatcheries and when you got them they would
be on the parallel market and
expensive. I looked for formal employment as a kitchen hand at a local pre

school or day care centre. The salary was not that much and so to suppl
ment I used to sell drinks and sweets to the school children and members
of st
aff. My husband is a teacher at Zengeza 1 Primary School and his salary
was too low and would not take care of family needs. It is only with the
adoption of the US dollar with the coming in of the government of national
unit that I am now able to save. I h
ave started again my poultry business
and I currently have 100 birds which I will sell at USD6 per bird and getting
a gross amount of USD600 and a profit of USD300 after removing the

This business has always been my passion and it has helped in prov
ing for my family. I would not count much the amount my husband gets
from his formal work as a Teacher. He is only paid USD150 and compared
to the USD300 I get from this project it is little. We are able to pay school
fees for our children, have food on
the table and save a bit. Of course my
husband is the head of this household and makes all the major decisions.
But I would say ever since I started my project I have also been able to
make decisions about what to buy with the profits and my husband seems
to trust my decisions. I however do not make it too obvious that I am ma
ing a decision. I tell him as a suggestion but I would have done my hom
work and convincing him is usually ea
sier that way(Madondo 2010,personal


The concerns raised by Madondo were common among women entrepr
neurs interviewed. As one woman at Glen Norah flea market said, “I tried to
get a loan from Zambuko Trust in 2002. The money was too little but at the
e time the interest rate was too high. I then applied for a loan from Wo
en Development Savings and Credit Union (WDSCU). They did not require
any collateral and the guarantee was my business activity. I also had to open an
account with them which I keep a

minimum of USD5. They came and a
sessed what I was doing and that was guaranteeing enough to give me the loan.
I later applied for another loan to expand my business and I used my sister as
my guarantor. The loan was six months to pay and the interest rat
e reasonable”
(Respondent 2010, personal interview).

However WDSCU manager for Harare office contrasted the above by
stating that high rate of inflation placed stress on them as an institution b
cause the loan money repaid had a lower real value than the m
oney borrowed
and at the same time interest rates could not keep pace with inflation. They
started charging fees in addition to the interest rate but it only made the situ
tion unbearable for women entrepreneurs because on top of inflation such
charges put

economic stress on their enterprises (Mr Motsi 2010, personal i

The other limitation he stressed was the fact that not all women who
come to borrow money are doing it for entrepreneurship purposes. He pointed
out that during the 2007
8 periods t
hey experienced an influx of women who
had been hit hard by economic hardships and were actually looking for money
for household needs such as buying food and paying school fees for children.
Such women are said to be operating survivalist enterprises and
some are a
ready out of the system. According to him 80% of women who come to get
loans will not have realised an opportunity for profiteering but they will be
looking for money to take them out of financial problems (Mr Motsi 2010,
personal interview).

Some women are said to have experienced some major financial shock like
serious illness or death of a household member thereby being forced to reall
cate the loan money and other savings. This has crippled some women’s bus
nesses. He stated that access to
credit for women is very important but is not
the only necessary condition for women entrepreneurs to prosper. They need
to have the right attitude and to be motivated by a desire for entrepreneurship
(Mr Motsi 2010, personal interview).



the Chapter

The chapter gave stories of women involved in different activities in the i
formal economy as entrepreneurs. Their live journeys in entrepreneurial activ
ties were given as they were told by these women. Contrasting views of formal
s offering credit to these women were also highlighted.

The next chapter will give an analysis of the experiences of these women

The extent to which women entrepreneurs are economically
empowered through entrepreneurial activities will be as
sessed using the e
powerment concept by Naila Kabeer (2001). Rao and Kelleher (2005) Instit


tional Transformation concept that argues that ‘changes need to happen along
four dimensions, that is , at the level of individuals, at the level of society as a
ole, in the formal and informal spheres’ in order to have gender equality and
in this case for women entrepreneurs to have productive work. As
Swain and
Wallentin (2009:542)

reiterates, “women’s empowerment takes place when
women challenge the existing soc
ial norms and culture, to effectively improve
their well


Chapter 6: Data
: Productive Work for
Economic Empowerment

6.1 Entrepreneurship as a Source of Productive Work in the
Informal Economy.

There has been a parallel dimension started by

Keith Harts in 1972 quoted in
Maloney, (2003:65) on the informal economy that pointed to entrepreneurial
dynamism and the fact that some people are in the informal economy by
choice and “recognition of relatively well off entrepreneurial group coexisting
with involuntarily informal. Such is the case with women interviewed.

Kolosa, one of the respondents, testified that entrepreneurship in the
informal economy has given her the opportunity to engage in work that is r
warding (Kolosa.2010, personal interview
).Being formally employed does not
always translate to better salaries and working conditions as she used to get
ZWD equivalent to USD250 as her net salary. This was not enough to take
care of her family since she is widowed and is the sole breadwinner of
her two
children. Her poultry business is currently giving her close to USD1000 after
subtracting the costs of running the project and is growth oriented by the
standards of the
core card developed by Berner et al. (2008)

As Maloney
(2003:65) points out
“there is nothing intrinsically inferior about self emplo
ment”. The issue of protection and benefits in some developing countries
shows that the marginal formal sector worker is equally poor and miserable
and jobs equally indecent

On the other hand Mrs Madziva who also gave the life history of her
activities in the informal economy is operating a survivalist type of enterprise.
She gets a profit of less than USD150 each month for her family

is the other side of the in
formal economy and as Berner et al. (2008:6) puts it,
“incomes generated from these businesses, which tend to be run by women
usually fall short of even the minimum standard of income, has little capital
investment, low skills and training”(Berner et al.,

From the life history experiences of women entrepreneurs it can be
concluded that women like Kolosa who operate growth oriented enterprises
are in
between the upper
tier segment of the informal economy and micro
firms subordinated to large firms.
She has a contract with Irvine’s chicken
breeders which in a way subordinate her to a large firm in the formal economy.
As Chen (2006:84) argues, “to increase competitiveness, capitalist firms in the
formal economy reduce their input costs, including labou
r costs by promoting
informal production …” It can therefore be concluded that out sourcing by
Irvine’s breeders lead to cost reduction in terms of labour costs but at the same
time it is mutually benefiting since Kolosa is able to earn a decent income.

owever, Kolosa in her life history story as an entrepreneur talks about
the period when her contract was terminated because of scaling down of ope
ations by Irvine’s during the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe. Kolosa


had to find other alternative
s to take care of her family. It can be concluded
that there are some shocks and vulnerabilities associated with being in the i