I was one of only three women projects officers in 1970 working for the Industrial Development Corporation (INDECO) in Lusaka, Zambia, where there were no no other females in management positions at the time in this organization that had 50 subsidiary companies ranging from manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, construction, imports and exports, and retail business. The company policy then was that female employees needed a male co-signatory, such as husband, father, or other male relative to guarantee her car or mortgage loan application to the company. But this policy did not apply to male employees. My friend and colleague (Yvonne, now deceased) was particularly upset by this policy and being single at the time, thought it was ridiculous that she should contact her father (living 500 miles away) to co-sign her loan application. She speerheaded the fight against this policy. Neither did I feel that I should ask my husband at the time, to co-sign my loan application even though he was ready to do so. We took up the issue with management but they dismissed our complaint and challenged us to prove that female employees including "secretaries" and other support staff, or women in retail services that were the majority among female employees, agreed with our position. We had what at first, seemed insurmountable hurdles as we tried to galvanize female employees to sign the petition to change the policy. Some couldn't understand "what all the fuss" was about and said that they had " no problem" getting their husbands or male relatives to guarantee or co-sign for their loan applications. We pointed out that it was a matter of principle and equal rights at the workplace regardless of gender. Finally, we convinced many women in the organization and obtained enough signatures on the petition to have the company change its policy. It was a great day when the first female employees applied for loans and did not have to ask their husbands, fathers, or other male relatives to co-sign or guarantee their loan applications to INDECO.
By Kekelwa Nyaywa
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