Zim’s Iron ladies soar in lockdown tide

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Fatima Bulla
Ever since the outbreak of the Covid- 19 pandemic, the world of work has been disrupted with businesses and companies either scaling down or closing in order to observe lockdown regulations.

According to the International Labour Organisation, (ILO) approximately 2.7 billion workers are affected by the full or partial lockdowns being enforced around the world to contain the spread of the disease.
This represents about 81 percent of the world’s workforce.

Additionally, research reveals that the impact of Covid-19 will affect women disproportionately and differently from men.

A United Nations policy brief on the impact of Covid-19 on women, states that lay-offs and cuts will affect women as they take on greater demands at home.

Projections also indicate that there will be a prolonged dip in women’s incomes and labour force participation.

Coming closer to home, the projections have already become a reality to many women who have lost jobs or closed their informal businesses.

In the midst of that dark cloud, the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed some women to discover other business opportunities or to harness a skill they had sidelined in pursuant of formal employment.

Skills in farming, baking, and knitting have been the major ventures for women who found themselves without jobs as the Covid -19 induced lockdown took its toll on the economy.

Social media groups that had been dominated by Covid-19 forwarded messages, fake news, gossip, sex tapes or nude pictures are now a preserve for information to harness skills in farming, cooking, baking, knitting and other business opportunities.

One such woman who has risen above the tide is Mrs Fadzai Nyabeze.

When her company closed, she turned to her hobby of selling organic spices and beauty products as a way of generating income.

She has now gained foreign clients after taking her business onto online platforms.

“Because of Covid-19, I learnt how I could also make bio-organic products such as moringa, makoni tea, turmeric. The good thing is these are all home products. I noticed how people have been so health conscious and decided to go into bio-organic products,” she said.

Ms Mugabe had to move her business to online platforms after lockdown made her customers unreachable

She added: “We started off with Zimbabwe grown herbs and spices which have no additives, colorings or artificial preservatives, its just simply from our garden to the kitchen. Going online has helped me to get more sales than just sit and wait until things normalize.”

Apart from selling chickens and harvesting her castor beans, another woman, Mrs Mazango, who is a farmer in Mazowe said the lockdown period has given her an opportunity to do online courses in mushroom etiquette and grooming in order to expand her marketing expertise.

“The lockdown has opened my eyes to go deeper into diversifying my farming activities. I enrolled for a groundnuts farming programme which will be conducted in November,” she said.

The lockdown has also given her a chance to think of how best she can rise above the water.

“I have finished selling my 250 broilers and booked the next batch. I also had a good harvest of castor beans, over 1000kgs, which I delivered to Lifebrand. I now have 15 000 cabbages which will be ready by month end.”

Additionally, she has registered to carry out a sweet potato project under the Red Lipstick banner.

To some the conditions which were laid down to prevent Covid-19 provided opportunities to make profits.

This included sewing masks or making sanitizers.

Mrs Similo Dube Sibanda who founded a company that manufactures and distributes household detergents with the help of her husband Mbuthi, initially saw demise with the coming of the lockdown.

Her dream was to grow her brands and customer base, but these plans were dealt a heavy blow when the complete lockdown was announced.

With her clients now locked in their homes, she could not physically reach them, something that kept her awake as she pondered her next move.

She had to find alternative ways to reach out with the only option being to migrate to online platforms.

“The negative effects of Covid-19 disturbed all these plans as I could no longer market my products physically due to the stay at home policy that was reinforced. I also could no longer access our raw materials and business went down for a while,” she revealed.

She kept her eyes on the price, picked herself up and moved forward.

Research on better ways to keep existing customers and how to effectively market her products while at home gave a clear picture of what she was getting into.

Mrs Mazango took the lockdown as an opportunity to harvest her produce and expand her farming initiatives

She then started manufacturing the dishwashing liquid and went full force onto online marketing campaigns.

Customers immediately started to inquire. More customers also came through referrals made by those who were satisfied by her service.

“I am currently selling the products to individuals who need them for household use,” she said.

Covid-19 is no match for her dreams as she is now targeting to supply schools, pharmacies, churches among other established institutions that require hygiene products.

Her line of business is similar to that of Mrs Nokuthula Mulele whose clothing boutique had to be closed in adherence with the lockdown measures.

“I didn’t want my brains to be on lockdown and I knew no one would look for clothes during lockdown,” she said.

Venturing in making sanitizers and detergents, Mrs Mulele ordered 25 litre packages of sanitizers which she repackaged and rebranded using personal designed stickers.

Her idea of making sanitizers and all purpose detergents for offices, desktops, laptops, windows since this was on demand has paid off.

“The business is doing well and I thank God for that. If there was no lockdown I was not going to think about another avenue of income,” she remarked with excitement.

She now has plans to diversify her brand into botanicals producing skincare products, oils and bath salts.

For the bulk of  women who earn a living through cross border trade, the lockdown spelt doom as they could not travel to import goods for resell.

Ms Noku Zhou, one of the directors at a Gweru based company which supplies solar products, was left counting her losses when the South African border with Zimbabwe was closed to human traffic save for essential service providers like haulage truck drivers.

Ms Noku Zhou is now selling sweet potatoes as another avenue for income

Without access to import solar products from South Africa, the company could not continue operating resulting in disposable incomes dwindling.

“I decided to visit farms and thought of buying something that I could resell. They had tomatoes, vegetables and sweet potatoes. I opted for the latter so I am currently ‘running’ with the popular sweet potatoes,” Ms Zhou said displaying sweet potatoes from the boot of her car.

To kick off her new business, she sold to individuals mostly contacts from her phone book who in turn would also refer other people.

Today, she is currently making profits so are many other women who have found new income avenues.