Before her business took off, this indomitable woman approached several micro-finance institutions in Chipinge to apply for credit, but without much success. It was as though most financial institutions did not believe that someone with a disability was worthy of receiving credit.
However, she persevered and eventually managed to get a loan from Finmark Finance. The companys loans officer, Jerry Takawira, said there were many people in in a similar situation to that of Pikirai.
They successfully operate businesses, but because of their disabilities they are not able to access micro finance services. This is in direct contrast to the United Nations (1993, 2007) assertion that persons with disabilities have the right to equal opportunities, said TakawiraPositive policy
Our company has mechanisms in place to deal with the inclusion of disabled persons. We are working with the National Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe (NDPZ) in search of intervention models to improve access to mainstream micro finance services for persons with disabilities, he said.
After several discussions with stakeholders, we targeted disabled people as beneficiaries. We concluded that disabled people were a needy group and that they should be classified under a lower cost compared to the prices paid by their able bodied counterparts, said Takawira
Fortunately for Pikirai, she was one of the beneficiaries of Finmark Finances positive policy. She received business management training offered by the finance company and after completion of the training she applied for and was allocated a $1 000 loan in 2012.Fear of disabled
The training that I received motivated me to apply for a loan. They told me to join a group to identify with, but this was a struggle because other people seemed to be afraid of me because of my disability, she said.
I went back to Finmark Finance and told them that other people were not willing to work with me and I cried in their offices. Getting my loan took another twist because many people in the groups doubted my ability. They saw me as a bigger risk because of my disability. But, I managed to convince them as an individual when I was granted the loan, she said.
She started repackaging and distributing Jersey Juice in 2012 and today Pikirai can boast that she runs a successful business. She now distributes the beverage to various supermarkets in Chipinge, has managed to employ eight people,purchased a truck for distributing goods and repaid her loan.Disability is not inability
It has been a long road to success, but it also serves as a good reminder that disability does not mean inability. I am rightfully proud of what I have managed to achieve with the loan I received – especially in light of the fact that some of the able-bodied who once feared and despised me, have failed to repay their loans, she said.
I was subjected to a 15% extra savings on top of the mandatory 30% needed to qualify for a loan. I paid back the loan in a shorter period, which caused many women to realise that I am just as good as they are. I recently got a second loan and used this to expand my business to include foodstuff, charcoal and firewood, which will bring in a larger regular income, she said.
Now I no longer have to wait for well-wishers to provide for my family needs. I am happy that my two children go to good schools and that people respect me. I am also very pleased that I have improved the lives of the people I employ. They are now able to send their children to school and are to put food on their tables, Pikirai said.
Takawira said Pikirais story illustrates that it is possible for persons with disabilities to access mainstream micro finance services and reap the benefits
Barriers hindering active persons with disabilities from accessing micro financing can be addressed and will gradually be removed, said Takawira.
Pikirai believes that the barriers hindering the inclusion of persons with disabilities into obtaining loans have been identified through her story and that micro finance projects should increase assisting persons with disabilities.
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