Transport owner taxies to the top

Date: January 1, 1970
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This article outlines the challenges that women entrepreneurs in Swaziland face. As a way of inspiring other women to venture into business, the article profiles Jabu Shongwe, a transport operator owning 11 kombis.

This article may be used in training to:
1. Illustrate gender aware reporting in media.
2. Show that there has been a shift in the roles associated with women and men with both sexes venturing into traditional ‘no go areas’
3. Highlight the unequal playing field when it comes to access to finance.
4. Show how women can work towards uplifting other women.
5. Illustrate the fact that media is now more receptive towards women in business and have opened up the space for them.
Trainer’s notes
This article has a very positive headline which highlights that Jabu Shongwe is good at what she does. Even before one reads the article they can pick up the positive and encouraging tone. Jabu Shongwe, the successful businesswoman, is pictured standing next to her fleet of taxies. Often times media identifies women according to personal relationships. This article is however different in that it presents Shongwe as an independent person in her own right. This in itself takes her, as a woman, out of the private domain and shows her in a public, professional space. This article also highlights that access to finance remains a major obstacle to women entrepreneurs in Swaziland. This shows that the unequal power relations that exist between women and men in Swaziland extend to the business sector. Men are still more likely to access to finance than women.
An analysis of what needs to be done to level the business playing field brings to the fore the inequalities that exist at the financial policy level. The article notes that women are still seen as minors within financial institutions and cannot enter into financial contracts without the co-signature of their husbands. This is a huge barrier to women who want to start their own businesses. This article also gives publicity to the Imbita Swaziland Women Finance Trust, a microfinance scheme that most women entrepreneurs may not even be aware of, that provides technical training and small-scale financing. It was through Imbita that Shongwe got the seed money for her taxi fleet.  The article does well to dispel the idea that in order to be successful in business, a person has to have a lot of money for startup. Shongwe started quite small, and has built her business up over time. Women often do not have access to large amounts of cash, so it is important to know that they can start small. While the article does list what needs to be done to give women equal access to finance,  it could have done better by also soliciting comment from the finance ministry to try and find out what government is currently doing.
Discussion questions
1. What does the article say about women in business?
2. How are women and men portrayed in the story?
3. Has there been a shift in the way that women in business are viewed in society?
4. There are many financial barriers women entrepreneurs face, a major barrier being unequal treatment from financial institutions.
5.  According to the article, women cannot access money without their husband’s co-signature. What does this mean for unmarried women? For women whose husbands are unsupportive? Why, in this day and age, are women still treated as minors when it comes to finances? What does this say about Swazi society’s views on women
Training Exercises
1.  Ask participants to find information on what other finance schemes are available for women in Swaziland, both through established financial institutions and organisations like Imbita. What are their requirements for accessing finance? How do organisations like Imbita differ from banks or loan companies? Discuss the information researched.
2.  Write an article or opinion piece about women’s limited access to finance. Question why women are seen as minors. Find out if the government or financial institutions are working to change this law.
Links to other training resources
 Related GL Commentaries
Culture affecting women in business

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