Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
LEGISLATORS have expressed concern over poor management of the Women’s Development Fund (WDF) after it emerged that it was benefiting “a few well connected women”.
The Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Affairs has since 2010, been disbursing loans earmarked for women projects in different parts of the country.
Presenting a report on WDF projects, the Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development chairperson, Cde Biata Nyamupinga, said during public hearings, some women expressed ignorance and lack of information about the fund.
“ It is the view of the committee that the state of WDF communication has been and will continue to benefit the few well connected groups of women while excluding the majority marginalised women,” she said.
Cde Nyamupinga said the exclusion of most women was against the letter and spirit of the National Gender Policy (2013 – 2017) which recognises the need for broad inclusion of women and their participation in the economy – Womenomics.
She said the selection criteria for WDF beneficiaries remains unclear to the committee considering the high number of projects that were found to be non-viable and non-functional for one reason or the other.
“A list of projects given to the committee in Mashonaland East Province; Bulawayo Metropolitan for Mbizo District, Reigate District, and Khami District as well as for Mutare District in Manicaland province, reflected that most projects were no longer functional,” she said.
“Most of these projects were also failing to pay back the loans”.
Cde Nyamupinga said among the reasons highlighted as the cause of collapse of women’s groups benefiting from the funds included separation of group members after getting loans, internal squabbles and other market related challenges.
She said the committee was of the view that the ministry does not carry out adequate project proposal vetting before selecting beneficiaries and disbursing the money.
“As a result, a lot of beneficiaries whose project proposals do not qualify to be given loans end up getting the funds. In fact, it appeared to the committee that groups are just formed for the purpose of getting funds and nothing is pursued after getting the cash. This unfortunate scenario seems to go unchecked due to gross inadequate or complete lack of project monitoring and evaluation by the ministry,” said Cde Nyamupinga.
She said the committee was further dismayed that the WDF repayment status in most provinces is critically low, except in Masvingo and the Midlands provinces.
“The committee was further concerned that the ministry was not doing enough to recover the loans from the women groups, except receiving payment plans and rescheduling of the repayment plans as reported to the committee in Chimanimani and Marondera districts,” said Cde Nyamupinga.
She said some provinces indicated that all the processing is done at the ministry’s head office in Harare without involving local ward coordinators of women representatives.
“In Masvingo, at Rodger Howman Training Centre, the Committee was informed that the provincial office was directed to recommend a specific group of women which was later to be awarded a loan of $12 000 which they are now failing to repay,” said Cde Nyamupinga.
The committee recommended that the ministry must overhaul its WDF communication and information delivery strategy to ensure that all communities get full information about the availability of loans and how and where to make their applications for loans.
It recommended that the ministry should with immediate effect stop disbursing funds under WDF and carry out an audit and evaluation of all projects funded under WDF since 2010 to ascertain their viability status.