ETHEL Mupambwa nee Chiwara grew up in rural Gokwe-Nembudziya in a polygamous family. After completing her Ordinary Level studies, she escaped a plan by her father to marry her off to a polygamous man and pursued her dreams.
Now she is the chief executive and founder of MoneyMart, a financial solutions company. She was recently shortlisted among the top 50 of the Jack Ma Foundations’ Africa’s Business Hero awards.
The NewsHawks’ Bridget Mananavire (BM) had a conversation with Mupambwa (EM) about her dramatic journey and running her business in the current volatile economic environment.
BM: Let’s start with the part where you ran away from home after your father tried to marry you off. Could you tell us that story?
EM: My father had four wives, my mom being the first wife, and l am the last born to my mother. When I completed my O Level, having passed with flying colours, my father told me that he had no money to further my education. He had already arranged my marriage to his friend and l was going to be in a polygamous marriage. This prompted me to run away from home with the help of my mother who helped me to board me a bus around 2am destined for Harare, where my older sister was already married. I went on to go to A level and then to university, supported by my sister and her husband. I could not return home as I was afraid of my father for two years since the incident. I had to be courageous and fight for my life.
BM: Did you have any plan when
EM: Not really. It happened so suddenly and, to avoid the marriage taking place, I had to leave immediately, which meant on that same night when it was announced. The foremost thing on my mind was that I should proceed with my education because l knew l could make it. During my primary level l Girl child who escaped polygamy to greatness would cry if a boy would take number one. If l wasn’t number one that particular term, I would not mind if it was a girl. My mentality was just to fight the recognition men and boys always had, yet we were also human beings in the set up.
Whilst on that note, it was also because of the fact that my father was a businessman and his shops were written Chiwara and Sons. My biggest question was why not and wives, and we as daughters, where were we in the equation of all this? It used to put me off (Laughs….)
BM: How did you feel then and how do you feel now being the CEO of MoneyMart?
EM: Then, I felt so devastated. I remember when my father told me he was marrying me off, I cried so hard, I do not think that I have ever cried that much. In a way, I am grateful it happened because for the first time in my life I stood up to my father and I really feel humbled that I have managed to come this far, not only the CEO, but the founder of such an organisation which listens to women and tries by all means to financially empower them. It can only be God.
BM: You were shortlisted for the Jack Ma foundation’s Africa’s Business Heroes Awards. Can you describe the journey to that achievement?
EM: When I applied, I really did not think that I would come this far. I just applied and I was like, really, what have I to lose? And when I was nominated to be in the top 50, I still could not believe it. That hardworking hat on. It has been a very long journey and I have really worked hard, been diligent and patient to get here. It’s been lots of sleepless nights for us because they really need you to prove yourself; you really need to work hard to get to the next stage. You have to prove your worth. You have to prove that you are the next African business hero.
BM: What is your vision and what do you stand for?
EM: As a business, we call ourselves financial architects. We are passionate about financial empowerment especially that of women.
Our dream is to be the become the leading player in the development of innovative and inclusive financial solutions to our clients. We value people, innovation, positive transformation to all our stakeholders and operational efficiency.
BM: How has the Zimbabwe economy affected MoneyMart operations?
EM: To be honest, we at MoneyMart Finance as a team, have decided to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty. We have decided to look at the opportunities that the Zimbabwean economy has offered instead of looking at the problems. The economy has managed to make room for the informal sector and that is the bulk of our clientele. And the informal sector is contributing 60% and 45% to GDP and employment, respectively, and they deserve an opportunity to grow by easy access to finance.
BM: How have been able to overcome the challenges?
EM: By being innovative and agile. We listen to the challenges of our clientele and are ready to meet their needs by giving them sustainable solutions.
BM: What policy changes do you think can improve the situation?
EM: I am passionate about women and youth empowerment, coming from the background I am coming from and being still youthful myself. I feel that if these two groups are given access to financial solutions such as financial literacy programmes, credits which speak to them as they have no collateral and cultural barriers; our economic issues would soon be a thing of the past.
BM: What would be your message to the girl child?
EM: If Ethel from Nembudziya-Gokwe can do it, then you can do it too. Stand up and be courageous, you are just as good as the boy child, the difference is only in the making of the body.
BM: And what would be your last word?
EM: Thank you so much, Zimbabwe, and everyone who has supported me in this journey. I really appreciate it and I do not take it for granted. Please keep telling my story so that someone who finds herself in a situation similar to mine, they can listen to my story and have the strength to stand up for themselves. To the businesswomen and youths out there, it is time to deliver and produce results, keep dreaming and dream big, the sky is not even the limit.