Southern Sister: Woman at work


IT is no longer a strange thing to find women working side by side with men in all kinds of spaces. Whether fixing cars, answering phones, chairing board meetings or repairing industrial machines, women and men are enjoying more integration in the workplace – even if this doesn’t translate to proper equality yet.

Southern Sister by Thembe Khumalo

It is not every woman who chooses to work outside the home, and it is not every woman who wants to do paid work in a formal environment.

Many of our small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are in fact, conducted by women entreprenuers who may or may not be based at home, but who are supporting families through their work.

This week Alpha Media Holdings (publishers of Southrn Eye, NewsDay, The Standard and Zimbabwe Independent) hosted a breakfast for SMEs at the Harare Agriculatural Show at which the outgoing SMEs minister Sithembiso Nyoni shared some fascinating insights about this sector.

For instance, did you know that there are 3,8 million SMEs in Zimbabwe that have created businesses in the last ten years? They have created seven billion dollars in revenue which is outside the banking system. Many of these SMEs are run by women.

Work is important not only for the income it enables us to generate, but also because it enhances our sense of value. When your opinion, expertise or skills are sought by others, you recognise that you are making a valuable contribution to the community. We all know at least one hairdresser or dressmaker whom we will trust with the most intricate of styling because we have great confidence in her skills.

It’s easy for a woman in male-dominated work space to lose sight of the high value that she brings to the table. She needs in fact, to maintain a conscious understanding of that value, to cultivate it and to see herself as an asset whose input enhances the organisation’s value.

Work also provides us with phenomenal opportunities to learn, grow and develop new skill sets. It increases the range of our experiences of life and enhances our ability to deal with opposing personalities, conflict and disappointment.

It increases confidence because more and more, one realises that one is able to overcome difficulty, to solve problems and to keep moving even when things are hard. Work also gives one choices. When one has earned an income, one also earns the right to use it in the way you think best. Think about countries that receive aid from outside.

The prescriptions for how that money must be used are often long and detailed. But if the money was invested in business enterprises that allowed for continuous generation and regeneration of wealth, there would be so much more self-determination.

When work matches one’s personal values, desires and personality, it can be a joy. To make a contribution to something bigger than oneself is a very satisfying experience.

And finally – and I know many mothers will certainly agree with this one – having work to do keeps one out of trouble.

They say the devil finds work for idle hands, so when the hands are gainfully employed the devil has to look elsewhere for his opportunities!