Wil­low­ton Zim opens op­por­tu­ni­ties for women

Be­sides run­ning one of the big­gest ed­i­ble oil re­finer­ies in the coun­try, Wil­low­ton Zim­babwe has taken a bold step to­wards em­pow­er­ing women in Man­i­ca­land, as it has adopted a de­lib­er­ate pol­icy to em­ploy more women.

The Manica Post - - Business/farming - Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Busi­ness reporter

THE com­pany launched its $40 mil­lion re­fin­ery plant in Mutare’s Nyakamete in­dus­trial area, one of the most sig­nif­i­cant for­eign direct in­vest­ments in the coun­try’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor in re­cent years. The plant, which was of­fi­cially opened by Pres­i­dent Emmerson Mnangagwa on Fri­day last week, cur­rently em­ploys over 140 em­ploy­ees di­rectly, with a num­ber of key po­si­tions be­ing held by women, in line with the Gov­ern­ment‘s gen­der pol­icy.

The firm man­u­fac­tures cooking oil and soap, and there are plans to ven­ture into can­dles, mar­garine and rice pro­duc­tion.

Dur­ing the tour of the plant by del­e­gates, Post busi­ness wit­nessed more women than men, work­ing in some of the de­part­ments.

Speak­ing at the of­fi­cial launch of the Re­fin­ery plant on Fri­day last week, Wil­low­ton Zim­babwe’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Mr Bruce Hen­der­son said the com­pany was proud of the work be­ing done by its fe­male em­ploy­ees and was keen to em­ploy more women.

“We are proud of all our em­ploy­ees, par­tic­u­larly the fe­male ones. They pri­ori­tise their fam­i­lies and they de­liver. And they are less likely to be dis­tracted as much as us males. This is the spirit we want to fos­ter within the com­pany,” he said.

He said the women play key roles in de­part­ments such as fi­nance, saponi­fi­ca­tion (soap mak­ing) and lab­o­ra­tory ser­vices.

Sev­eral women who spoke to Post Busi­ness ex­pressed their plea­sure at be­ing awarded the op­por­tu­nity to work for Wil­low­ton.

“We are work­ing very well here. We came in as women and we were given the op­por­tu­nity to work in an area where only men used to work. Most of us didn’t have any source of in­come be­fore but we can now fend for our fam­i­lies. We can af­ford to take care of them and take our chil­dren to school,” said Ms Marita Manyama, an em­ployee at the bot­tle per­forms man­u­fac­tur­ing plant.

An­other em­ployee, Ms Net­sai Chi­hamba said the move by Wil­low­ton to em­power women had helped some women re­gain their dig­nity is society.

“Some of us here are sin­gle par­ents and we had to take care of our chil­dren alone. Society looked down on us but Wil­low­ton came in and helped us re­gain our dig­nity. We have job se­cu­rity to en­sure that our chil­dren get de­cent ed­u­ca­tion and food,” she said.

A su­per­vi­sor in the same depart­ment, who pre­ferred not to be named said the move to em­ploy more women was a de­lib­er­ate pol­icy meant to em­power the women within the com­mu­nity the com­pany op­er­ates in.

“This is a de­lib­er­ate ini­tia­tive to em­ploy women in most of our pack­ag­ing de­part­ments from the soap mak­ing, bot­tle and oil pack­ag­ing de­part­ments. You no­tice that our ma­chines do most of the man­ual labour and th­ese women then come in to pack the con­tain­ers, the soaps and the filled cooking oil bot­tles,” he said.

Gov­ern­ment launched the re­vised na­tional Gen­der pol­icy in July 2017, a re­mark­able and his­toric event in Zim­babwe’s jour­ney to­wards a gen­der-just society.

The pol­icy dove­tails with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Agenda 2030 on Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals that recog­nises gen­der equal­ity as a fun­da­men­tal right and a driver of progress across all the de­vel­op­ment goals. The Pol­icy is also in line with the African Union Agenda 2063, which aims to achieve “full gen­der equal­ity in all spheres of life” through re­mov­ing “all forms of gen­der discrimination in the so­cial, cul­tural, eco­nomic, and po­lit­i­cal spheres.”

It fa­cil­i­tates the do­mes­ti­ca­tion of the re­vised SADC Gen­der and De­vel­op­ment Pro­to­col which Zim­babwe has re­cently signed.

The pro­mo­tion of gen­der equal­ity and the em­pow­er­ment of women is cen­tral to the man­date of all UN Agen­cies and, un­der the co­or­di­na­tion of UN Women, this work is in­trin­sic to our de­vel­op­ment ap­proach.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2016 UNDP Africa Hu­man De­vel­op­ment Re­port, sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa loses around $95 bil­lion per year ( or roughly five per­cent of the com­bined GDP ) due to gen­der inequality, which greatly im­pedes the con­ti­nent’s ef­forts for eco­nomic growth.

At the global level, ex­perts say that lev­el­ling the play­ing field for women at work also pos­i­tively im­pacts the growth and de­vel­op­ment of coun­tries.

Wil­low­ton Zim­babwe fe­male work­ers sort out cooking oil bot­tles at the bot­tle man­u­fac­tur­ing plant line

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