By Petronella Sibeene
Lack of access to finance by women in the country remains one of the barriers preventing women from going into full-time business to improve their standard of living.
The Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Marlene Mungunda, said this during the official opening of the Namibian Women’s Summit on Wednesday evening. She said accessing finance for enterprise development is still a problem for many women in the country, adding that national and cultural barriers such as land rights and loans were prevalent in the country 17 years after independence.
“These are deep-rooted and often difficult to break through, with financial systems as yet unresponsive to these issues”, the minister added.
Mungunda said the financial institutions should focus on the development of innovative financing mechanisms for women entrepreneurs and the relaxing and combating of prohibitive norms and practices that hinder women from equal access to finance.
Time has come for the recognition of women’s efforts, said Mungunda.
According to the minister, complicated bureaucratic procedures for licensing, registering and other transactions discourage the creation of new businesses. She called on Namibian women in business to support each other in order to overcome challenges posed in the entrepreneurial field.
Mungunda said government had introduced another policy of Transformational Economic and Social Empowerment Framework (TESEF). The initiative is aimed at removing barriers and enabling easier access to opportunities by groups previously disadvantaged.
“Let us embrace this opportunity with open hands and be creative”, she said.
The minister made these remarks at the first-ever Namibian Women’s Summit which started in the capital on Wednesday evening.
The summit that brings together over 150 businesswomen and entrepreneurs to share ideas on business and personal leadership, as well as to learn from each other through networking, is held under the theme “Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Growth”.
At the same platform renowned businesswoman, Anne Thandeka-Gebhardt, said that despite the country making great strides in advocating for women representation in decision-making in the public sector, the same cannot be said of the private sector.
She said it is disappointing that private institutions in the country are reluctant to honour the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of promoting gender equality and women empowerment, which Namibia intends to achieve by 2015.
While there are few women in leadership positions in the country, she feels the same cannot be said of the private sector.
“For the first time, Namibia has a woman Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Libertina Amathila, and we also have a woman with two portfolios, as well as governors and councillors – and the list goes on. But you will never find women in executive positions in the private sector,” she said.
Women in executive positions in the private sector are those running their own businesses, she said. Gebhardt urged the private sector to re-double their efforts in empowering women.
Although the current level of women representation in leadership roles in Namibia surpassed those of many countries on the continent, Gebhardt called for greater efforts to ensure that Namibian women be fully empowered at all levels of the economy in both the public and private sectors.
“We need to have our own role models – women mentors. We do not always have to depend on foreign mentors, but we must have our own women upon whom we can rely for support,” she said.
The summit ends today.