More than 80 women from Malawi, Botswana and Eswatini converged in Blantyre to engage, network and encourage each other in tackling various career challenges.
The four-day African women in Cooperatives Network, southern block women forum which started on Tuesday and ended on Friday, was organised by the African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Associations (Accosca).
The women observed that for issues affecting women to be prioritised and properly addressed, they need to fight to be on the discussing table with men.
In her Key Note Address, entitled ‘Breaking the glass ceiling’ Old Mutual Group chief executive officer Edith jiya hinted that there are more barriers against women at the workplace.
She said to move the systematic barriers against women progression; affirmative action needs to be taken. She cited men inclusion as one of them.
Jiya further challenged women to explore their capabilities, upgrade, learn from each other and shatter the glass ceiling.
“Most women occupy clerical positions leaving supervisory ones for men. Together we can change this setup. We are living in a changing world so it is important that we improve our adaptability and resilience to such changes,” she said.
Chairperson of Eswatini Sister society (a grouping of women working with Savings and Credit Cooperatives [Saccos] in that country)Gugu Vilakati said she had leant that coming out of the shell is very beneficial.
“You need to penetrate, go find out from other people what they are doing and learn from the best,” she said.
Eswatini sister society was established in 2019 through the introduction by Malawi Sister society.
According to Vilakati, the society has helped to empower women and opened opportunities for women in her country.
“Through the society, we have learnt that collaboration is the way to go. We organise meetings where women are motivated and learn a lot from different professionals, we also empower them financially,” she said.
Accosca executive director George Ombando said they realised a huge gap in the women financial inclusion and access agenda.
“We believe women play a key role and found it important to have a candid conversation on the topic around women being involved in financial inclusion,” he said.
Ombado said he expects ways of doing things or handling issues involving women to change.
“We want to encourage men to come and find a bearing of empowering women in a respective way through leadership, mentorship and through supporting them into elective positions without feeling that women have a different space in an African tradition.
“We believe they should change and this is going to be a continuous process because we understand change cannot happen overnight,” he said.
He advised women to be factual and not emotive when discussing issues with men “because that’s when men will listen to you more.”
African Women In Coops Network ensures that women and girls have control over their lives and are able to participate actively in Social, Political and Economic domains.
It is about realising true equality for women in Networking, Career Development access to ACCOSCA Global women Networks and a good platform for community service.