OUTDATED laws and social stereotypes deter women participation in economic activities.
This was highlighted by different speakers during a dialogue hosted by the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) on Monday.
The dialogue featured a line-up of distinguished women in leadership positions who discussed challenges faced by women in business and possible solutions to those problems. The dialogue was in commemoration of the just ended Women’s Month which is celebrated in August annually.
BEDCO chief executive officer, Idia Penane said women were more likely to venture into entrepreneurship than men but were hamstrung by several social, cultural, legislative impediments and lack of technical skills among others.
“A study conducted among women in entrepreneurships in sub-Saharan Africa indicates that there are more women likely to become entrepreneurs than men Ms Penane said.
“The study however, goes on to indicate that despite this, women’s businesses find it difficult to secure financing than their male counterparts.
“Other challenges we are also aware of here in Lesotho include social and cultural barriers, access to technology and legislative impediments.”
She said while the Covid-19 pandemic has brought many challenges, it has also brought opportunities that need to be tapped into.
‘Mamarame Matela, the chief executive officer of Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA), said there was need to implement laws that support women participation in business.
“We have the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act of 2006 and although this legislation has been around for some time, its utilisation and implementation is lagging behind…
“One of the major challenges women are still experiencing is accessing working capital for their businesses because when you need to finance a business venture, banks require collateral,” Ms Matela said.
She however, said women must take advantage of the recent promulgation of a legislation that makes it possible to use movable property as collateral.
“This is a key development that was spearheaded by the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) and women should be able to take advantage of this legal provision.
“Most of the time we have old pieces of legislation and as a result, only a few women do their estate planning properly.
“We are always expected to have a gentleman who qualifies our identity. But the fact is that women are very dynamic and independent and should be able to do their estate planning freely and independently. We should come up with amendments to our legislation that deals with estate planning,” Ms Matela said.
For her part, CBL governor Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane said women need government policies that support their forages into business.
She said while women seem to fare better in the financial sector, they still face marginalisation from participating in the sector.
“While women in Lesotho have been at the forefront of economic activity, they have largely been marginalized or excluded from the financial sector.
“It is a similar situation in the rest of the southern Africa region, where you will find women trying to make a living but there being no policies to support their efforts.”
Dr Matlanyane said women must be more adventurous to take advantage of financing opportunities that are at their disposal given that Lesotho women were more financially included than men.
Dr Matlanyane also said a CBL survey has revealed that women were dominant in small scale business while men were dominating in bigger businesses.
“This means there is a space for women to graduate their smaller businesses into the larger scale bracket,” Dr Matlanyane said.