GOVERNMENT has set aside $4,7 billion in the 2022 national budget to support financial inclusion of women across the country.

In his 2022 national budget statement presented last month, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said women played a critical role in the economy as producers, leaders, entrepreneurs and service providers.

“The empowerment of women, through various interventions, is meant to ensure equal opportunities in every field, irrespective of gender and in line with the thrust of NDS1 (National Development Strategy One) of leave no-one and no place behind.”

“In support of the empowerment drive and a more inclusive society, the 2022 national budget has a provision of $4,7 billion for the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development for interventions tailor-made to meet the needs of women,” Ncube said.

“Capitalisation of empowerment institutions such as Women Development Fund, Community Development Fund, Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank, Empower Bank (which is being remodelled into a development finance institution) and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Corporation is critical in achieving a gender inclusive budget.”

Ncube said progress had been noted in the area of financial inclusion of women after the formation of the Women Microfinance Bank and the Financial Inclusion Empowerment Fund, among others.

“Since the launch of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy in March 2016, there has been notable progress on access to formal financial services by the targeted groups, particularly with respect to loans to SME (small and medium enterprises), women and youths.

“Some of the resources will go towards recapitalisation of the related financial institutions as well as a guarantee fund to address collateral issues that are inhibiting access to finance by the target groups.”

Ncube said they had established the National Venture Capital Fund in response to demand for jobs by youths and women as well as to promote entrepreneurship and innovation by SMEs.

“The fund prioritises projects with capacity to create new jobs, generate foreign currency through exports, substitute imports, and promote women and youth entrepreneurship, as well as projects with high technological impact.”

Over the years, the Women Affairs ministry has been getting less than 1% of the national budget to support women projects and SMEs.