7 June 2012

Zambia: SABMiller 'Rescues' Vulnerable Women

MRS Patricia Nyendwa was too tired to give an interview to this author when she arrived for a Zambian Breweries sponsored business management skills workshop for women entrepreneurs at St Peter's Catholic Church in the Katuba area or popularly known as Ten Miles.

A mother of three, one of them strapped on her back, Patricia had woken up early that morning to clean up her house, prepare her school-going children as well as make ready a meal for her husband, who works as a taxi driver.

Having done her morning chores and saw off everyone that day, she put packed lunch in a plastic carrier bag for the baby and herself and headed for St Peter's Church.

On arrival, Mrs Nyendwa, who lives in Kabangwe, left her baby in the care of her peers and put down her lunch pack in order to catch her breath in readiness for the training. She looked tired.

Hers seemed like a life of a typical mother who had to contend with an impossible work-load of endless household chores which includes fending for everyone under her roof, including her husband, and somehow retain enough energy to engage in an income generating venture to sustain the household.

In the case of Mrs Nyendwa, that venture was selling spices in a local market from which she earned an average of K150,000 per month.

With that income, she was expected to supplement her husband's efforts in ensuring that there was a K200,000 paid monthly towards her two elder children in a private school, buy groceries, provide for laundry and toiletry requirements as well as assist her husband to settle the monthly electricity bill.

Mrs Nyendwa has been sauntering to the St Peter's Church for daily activities to acquire some skills and knowledge on how to go about business management.

Why was she spending her time learning business management skills?

"I want to get ideas on how to run a business," she said, adding that her dream was to get into poultry farming and business.

Mary Tembo is another mother who sought to learn new ideas in modern business management skills so that she can also run her chicken rearing business.

A mother of five, Mrs Tembo hails from Manyama Village in the Ten Miles area where she keeps 150 chickens that she used to off-set at an estimated cost of K500,000 to keep three of her children in school and help her husband to sustain the family.

Mrs Tembo derives a livelihood from growing vegetables for sell, to sustain her family.

When her chickens, which take about seven weeks to mature, are ready, Mrs Tembo boards a bus which takes 30 minutes to reach the Lusaka City market where she offloads her merchandise, and accesses banking facilities at the Zanaco City Market branch.

Her interest is to learn better business management skills that would help her grow her business so that she could raise enough money to build her family a house and send her children to better schools.

"I just want my children to get well educated so that they can live better lives when they grow up," she said.

However, the training programme also attracted young women like Nina Munsanje, a shop owner running a grocer's shop in John Laing Township of Lusaka.

Nina, who lives in Kabangwe, completed her Grade 12 at Libala High School in 2007 and planned to make it big in business. She launched her grocery in 2010 with a K1.5 million that she secured but the business has been declining of late.

In an effort to get ideas on making savings from her grocer's shop, Nina joined the DMI St Eugene sisters who have been working to promote empowerment for women groups in Lusaka, and has since learned skills, such as sausage making, through various interactions with the Catholic nuns.

These three were among a group of 120 women who were scheduled for a two-day business management skills training programme under the auspices of the DMI St Eugene nuns with sponsorship from the Zambia Breweries and National Breweries, the subsidiaries of SABMiller Plc.

Zambian Breweries/National Breweries Acting Corporate Affairs Director Yuyo Kambikambi advised the group that the training initiative stemmed from the SABMiller "Sustainable Development Way 10 Priorities One Future Programme".

The programme, which is implemented by all SABMiller subsidiaries around the world, employs ten sustainable development priorities namely; discouraging irresponsible drinking, making more beer using less water, reducing the energy and carbon foot print of the company as well as promoting the packaging-reuse-recycle principle.

Others are working towards zero waste operations, encouraging enterprise development in the company's value chains, benefitting communities, contributing to the reduction of HIV/AIDS, respecting human rights as well as transparency and ethics.

She said the prosperity of SABMiller is closely aligned to the health and well-being of communities in which the multi-national works, and hence, the company recognised that its investment in communities would benefit its reputation, the commitment and advocacy of its employees and the loyalty of its consumers.

"Today's initiative is guided by two of our ten priorities. These are to encourage enterprise development in our value chains to benefit communities," Ms Kambikambi said.

Through the two priorities, SABMiller believes that successful entrepreneurs are able to contribute to the economic development of a community, create jobs and improve local incomes.

These spur local economic growth that offers the company greater market opportunities, a better educated workforce and healthier communities.

Some of the entrepreneurs that are supported under these priorities also supply goods and services to the company directly.

So the company does not just contribute to society by delivering quality products for consumers, nor does it only create jobs and pays taxes.

Most importantly, SABMiller also helps local communities to develop their own initiatives by supporting the small businesses that help to sustain families, send children to school and pay for basic health services.

"Our businesses understand that their profitability depends on healthy communities, growing economies and the responsible use of scarce natural resources. We integrate these issues into the day-to-day management of our business. Sustainable development is therefore integral to the way that we do business and is aligned with our strategic priority to constantly raise the profitability of local businesses sustainably," she said.

Zambian Breweries and National Breweries have worked with the Ten Miles community in skills development for the last two years, with Zambian Breweries, in particular, running a similar training initiative for more than 200 women in 2011.

Community Development, Mother and Child Health Deputy Minister Jean Kapata regretted that access to finance is a major challenge for women entrepreneurs in Zambia.

But Ms Kapata, who is also Mandevu Member of Parliament (MP), was hopeful that developing small businesses in a systematic manner would help women entrepreneurs have a track record of their businesses which may in turn help them access funding from micro finance institutions.

"This is possible if our women work together and form working groups," she said, adding that developing group businesses could make it possible for women to have a stronger bargaining power and influence decision making.

She encouraged the women to take the workshop seriously and work with the DMI St Eugene sisterhood to form cooperatives that could help them access help from her ministry which she said had equipment that women groups engaged in small businesses could benefit from.

"We have good equipment such as machines for making cooking oil, sewing machines and sausage making machines that could be provided to the women," she said.

She paid tribute to the SABMiller subsidiaries for including a gender training component in the business skills training.

She said the workshop would address gender-specific constraints that usually confront low-income women.

Most entrepreneurship development training programmes tend to focus on managing and growing businesses with little or no considerations for gender specific constraints that may prevent women entrepreneurs from developing successful businesses.

DMI St Eugene sisters National Coordinator Sister Maila said her organisation is working with 250 self-help women groups in the Matero and Mandevu communities of Lusaka as well as Chibombo that had a combined membership of more than five thousand women who were being trained in business management skills.

She said the sisterhood had also made headways in Chawama Township in Lusaka where 40 new women groups had been formed.

She said ignorance and illiteracy were the major problems faced by most under-privileged women who had no capacity to achieve economic development as a result of not being able to read and understand numbers.

She expressed happiness that women groups in Matero and Mandevu in Lusaka were able to exhibit leadership skills after being trained.

The women were currently able to run their own programmes when they are just told what to do.

"We have conducted a lot of training initiatives and after doing that, we get to teach the women something new because most of them just sit at home. They do not have any money and therefore, they have to be taught how to generate savings so that they are able to start small businesses," she said.

Apart from the SABMiller subsidiaries, the sisterhood has also worked with Indo-Zambia Bank in the past which runs a loan scheme for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Having recorded success among women groups in Matero and Mandevu as well as in the on-going initiatives in Chibombo, not to forget the programmes that are unfolding in Chawama Township, the DMI St Eugene sisters are now preparing to replicate its success to Chipata in Eastern Province.

But their hope of transforming the lives of women like Mrs Nyendwa, Mrs Tembo and Ms Munsanje will depend on the financial muscle of companies like SABMiller which realises that their profitability relies on helping local households to sustain themselvees.

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