Gender dimensions of accessing business loans for micro and small businesses: A case study of Chipata District in Eastern Province of Zambia
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This dissertation explores why despite women traders in Chipata District in Eastern Province of Zambia being provided with business loans the end result is failure. Microfinance providers exclusively target women traders in the informal sector for group finance. The author reveals this state of affairs between availability of group finance and failure by using the Women’s Law Approach in his research. This approach enabled him harness complementary methodologies such as the Grounded, Human Rights and Actors and Structures in a gender sensitive way so as to investigate the legal, socio-cultural and economic challenges (factors) which constrain women’s entrepreneurship potential. The methods used for data collection included desk research of the relevant literature, policy and law. He also used focused group discussion with women traders while applied in-depth interviews with government, MFIs, and NGOs officials. He finds that the group finance schemes implemented by micro-finance providers follow the Grameen Bank model. It is assumed that providing women with money for income generating (IGAs) projects is enough when in actual fact it is not. He also finds that the needs of micro and small businesses in the informal sector have not been met and their active role in economic development has been ignored by government and NGOs in their policy formulation and implementation. The author finds three factors that constrain women’s capacity to businessdevelopment and these are: legal, legislative and policy provision, socio-cultural factors and economic challenges. He suggests that the solutions to failure lies in the following: Mentoring and networking were experienced women entrepreneurs can provide much needed support for new and emerging women entrepreneurs. Secondly, women must be assisted with subsidized day care centers for them to balance business activities and family responsibilities. To resolve marital issues where husbands interfere with the wives’ business, the only way out of this is through sensitization, educating the men on the importance of supporting women’s business activities. Thirdly, women not only need credit for business but also business training and entrepreneurship skills. To further improve the situation of business women in the informal sector the author recommends the following: enshrine socio-economic rights in the Zambia Constitution and make them justiciable. Finally there need is to stop stereotyping women as poor and needing small amounts of money to venture in to small income generating projects.