Women's Month Special: Patience Phiri, stands against all odds to empower other women

By Buhle Mhlanga

AT first glance, it may seem that successful people especially women have been given the easy ticket in life. From adoring fans to tons of money and unwavering success, the life of a victorious woman has been one envied for decades.

However, it wasn’t always an easy ride up for a Bulawayo woman Patience Phiri affectionately known as Service Captain in the business circles.

Her story is an inspiring tale of perseverance. 

And yet it’s easy for one to discount by assuming that Phiri must have possessed an extraordinary willpower that most people will never have. Yes other women might be inspired by her example, but they can’t possibly imitate her.

As a public speaker, trainer, facilitator and community developer, her passion is to ensure that all women and girls receive education as an empowerment tool which will help them to become better than they found themselves. 

Phiri practices and promotes servant leadership and one of her main messages is to develop, inspire and influence people especially fellow women to have a heart to serve.  This has also resulted in her penning a motivational book called Sanctified For Service.

In a lengthy interview Phiri urged women to live as risk-takers, looking to take chances in search of fortune, or as more conservative types making safe bets for a more assured path ahead.  

For Phiri, two roads were diverged before her but she took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference and today she is a celebrated female entrepreneur who is strongly advocating for the empowerment of other women.

“I have come up with projects for women such as grocery shops where they are packing grocery items like Matemba, chunks, beans and rice selling them to the public. They also have projects for food processing where  they are making jam, tomato sauce, tomato puree, chilli sauce, dried fruits, vegetables as well as canned fruits”,” said Phiri adding that they also  running detergent making projects where  these women are making dish washing liquid, pine gel, that is for household cleaning. 

She said this was a better way for disadvantaged women to raise money as part of their economic empowerment. Phiri said she also realised that her target publics, women might not have the expertise to run a proper business that can give them enough money hence she offers them training courses like business management skills. 

“The training is in the form of soft skills development as well as technical development. Once they also realised enough money they contribute some towards the edu-fund, which is designed to pay school fees for the disadvantaged girl children. By doing this we are increasing women who will in future make an impact in their communities than regretting that they were denied the opportunity to succeed   just because they didn’t have money to go to school”.

She often faces sexism, but she patiently strives to gain respect through her good work.  She said she has learned compassion, not hatred.

 “Our society being a partriachial, it does not often regard women hence there are social challenges that women face especially when they want to venture into economic projects. They might face resistance from families and their communities they live in.

“That is the reason why I run talk shows and dialogues to address these social challenges that women are likely to experience and face or encounter as they venture into an economic emancipation drive. It is also designed to equip them so that they can have a significant impact in all spheres of life and not being obscured as if they don’t exist or have no voice”.

 Turning to the challenges in the cooperate world, Phiri said for the 17 years, she has been in  the business industry she has realised that there are less women who dream big and it seems like they were not even hungry for the top posts  such as  at managerial level or above. 

“Maybe it is because of lack of self esteem or society that has conditioned them to believe that it is not meant for them. Worse in the field of business they are fewer women. Most women do take business where there are just assistants to their husbands or family without running something viable that can bring income to their homes,” she said.

So for her it came as a challenge as a trainer to unpack  what is deposited inside a woman, so that she can  get up, express it, show it,  to the world that women can also have a significant impact in the lives of other people. 

Phiri says her greatest enthusiasm was to identify the talents hidden in most women so that they realise or discover their full potential.

She said she also want to create a platform and networking site to sensetisie women so that they should blossom and let the world see their petals, as an indication that they are good flowers that have value to the World.

As part of her living philosophy, Phiri said Women’s month is a time to recognise the significant role women are playing in societies, homes, workplaces and communities.

She also said even when every circumstance was screaming at them to quit, women should prevail and turn their days of adversity into a lifetime of success. 

Her motto is: “Women light up the world, we are the emblem of goodness, kindness, mercy, positive virtues and caring that spells a woman”.

Apparently, for Phiri success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts and she is   among the numerous people in history whose struggles are proof of the extraordinary courage they possessed.