By Motšelisi Sekonyela
The Circle of Global Business Women (CGBW) which is an international organization for women in business, on February 25 launched its first national chapter in Lesotho with a membership of 200 businesswomen. The launch was officiated by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Sam Matekane at an event held for members and dignitaries including the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Nthomeng Majara in Maseru.
The organization was founded by a South African woman, Sindiswa Mzamo who is the global President. In Lesotho, the organization is chaired by Adv. Nonnie Da Silva Manyokole who describes it as a global network of intelligent and innovative women who are authentic in their endeavors to create a leadership shifty globally.
Manyokole runs her own Law firm, Da Silva Manyokole Attorneys and has a Master’s degree in business. Manyokole is also a Nedbank consultant.
The organization is open to all Basotho women with businesses from Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to big corporations. In order for one to be a member, they are only required to pay an annual subscription fee of M500. Even businesses without legal documentation are welcome to join and will get help in registering within the organization as it has its own advisory partners from institutions like Revenue Services Lesotho.
Speaking at the event, the Prime Minister relayed his government’s full support of the organisation, especially in sectors like the Agricultural sector which the government is regarding as a priority sector for development that will see Basotho become exporters of food to international markets like Dubai.
He urged women to venture into male-dominated industries and challenge the status quo, saying this initiative is a good start.
The initial formation of the CGBW- Lesotho started in August 2020 but was still an informal gathering. Only in July 2022 was the organization legally registered with a constitution and an election of an executive committee. The requirement was also that each member pays a subscription fee to be formally recognized as a member, and from about 600 members, only about 200 paid the subscription, hence only that number of members is recognized.
Registered members join various digital groups of the organization that include the CGBW marketplace where members get to trade amongst themselves. There are also cluster groups that cater for different sectors within which the various members fall under like Agriculture.
The key benefit for members in this organization is the access to local and international market that is facilitated by the organization.
Manyokole said on February 28, the executive committee has scheduled a meeting with the Bloemfontein Premier to discuss trade between the CGBW businesses and the province as it is the closest to Lesotho. This discussion will look at how the Bloemfontein market can absorbs goods and services that the various women offer.
Manyokole also emphasized that they are looking to take advantage of the new African Free Trade agreement and through it aim to penetrate all participating African countries’ borders.
The Minister of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism, Hon. Mokhethi Shelile said he has faith in this organisation because of the track record of its founding members and its executive. He applauded the organization’s mandate of supporting the rise of women leaders globally,
Shelile said that despite the government’s efforts to ensure an equal representation of gender in government, the country is still experiencing unequal opportunities among men and women. Domestic abuse, sexual violence remain persistent issues for concern. He said this is despite the fact that the statistics in Lesotho show that women are likely to be more educated and more entrepreneurial than their male counterparts. However, these women are clustered in small and micro enterprises, often low value sectors with low potential to generate high and sustained income growth.
He said female-led businesses are dominant in sectors such as retail and wholesale sector with 15% contrast to 11% of male leaders in these sectors. Shelile noted that women are very rare in high-tech engineering sectors composing of only 1.5% in contrast to 9.5% of men.
“The cultural, societal beliefs and vices have shaped and classified business sectors as being either masculine or feminine, thus designating what I have considered inferior sectors for women. Regardless of their education status, women still tend to be classified as having less business skills than men. These kinds of gender bias are undermining our social fabric and devalue all of us. It is not just a human rights issue, it is a tremendous waste of human potential,” Shelile said.
Shelile added that political, economic and social equality for women will benefit the whole world and that it should be a call on each person to advocate for equal human rights and end gender biases. He said most governments are adopting affirmative public procurement and economic policies to support women participation in local industries, public supply chains and business development.
In conclusion, the Minister relayed plans in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s office to launch a World Bank project that has put aside 12 billion USD for youth and women development.