A study to determine whether women Finance Cooperative Zambia (WFCZ) has helped to empower women : The case of Lusaka Urban District from 1997 - 2002
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The study investigates whether Women Finance Cooperative Zambia (WFCZ) has helped to empower women through provision of loans. In Zambia many women have to bear the major economic responsibility, in addition to domestic chores, to support their families irrespective of their marital status. Since the majority of them are ill-educated and ill-equipped with skills required in the waged market, only a small proportion of women manage to obtain waged employment. Nevertheless, these women must work in order to survive and to support their families. For many women the way to do this is by engaging in petty trading. As they engage into petty trading, women face constraints including lack of credit facilities as they find themselves at a disadvantage when dealing with financial institutions and other lending agencies. Financial Institutions such as WFCZ are formed to help such women by giving loans to them. The objective of the study was to examine the background of women who got loans from WFCZ and to determine whether they become empowered thereafter. The study was undertaken between June and August 2004. The data were collected using both quantitative and qualitative methods from primary and secondary sources. Primary data was collected using questionnaire, interview method and focus group discussions; while secondary data was collected by reviewing records from the institution. The samples were selected using the simple random sampling method for questionnaire, and purposeful sampling for interview and focus group discussions. The quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed using SPSS and content analysis respectively. The results of the study demonstrate that WFCZ has helped to empower women through providing loans to them. This was shown by the fact that all the women were able to repay the loans back to the institution and were able to continue with their businesses without difficulty. The findings also show that these women were from low income groups in society but were relatively well educated. Through the loans these women have managed to expand their businesses by having more orders and in turn realizing more profit thereby being empowered economically. As a result of the empowerment women are able to take part in decision making in their homes thereby changing gender relations in these women's homes. Furthermore, from the profit they realize from their businesses these women are able to buy household goods and other purchases such as houses and plots on their own without depending on their husbands or any other family member. These women are therefore able to have access to and control over property in their homes. However, the findings of the study reveal that the institution (WFCZ) has not helped the poorest women in society. These are those who are not yet in business and those that do not have accounts with the institution. The institution therefore has not achieved its vision of having a society in which every woman is empowered. The results also reveal that the major constraints that women face when trying to get loans are collateral requirement and high interest charged on the loans. The findings of the study therefore called for a reduction on the interest charged on the loans lent to women, and an abolition of the collateral requirement from the women when they apply for loans.
SubjectCooperative societies -- Zambia
Cooperative Societies -- Finances -- Zambia
Financial institutions -- Zambia