While quite a number of women have been participating in tobacco farming in Zimbabwe, little has been spoken about women involvement in the buying process of the golden leaf in the country.
BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
Tobacco farming in Zimbabwe is booming with the country earning at least a $1 billion annually from the golden leaf.
Nonetheless, the industry has been male-dominated as space has not been open for women to be involved in the selling of tobacco at the auction floors.
Premier Tobacco Auction Floor has, however, broken the jinx and assembled a team of females who are employed as auctioneers, starters and ticket markers, ticket runners and grower representatives.
The tobacco company’s marketing manager Hilda Matanga said since the tobacco industry was male-dominated, they decided to train women to participate in the marketing of the crop as part of the company’s policy on gender equality.
“In the tobacco industry we have never had females. As Premier Tobacco, we are having a team of female auctioneers and starters whom we trained from 2013 until now so for us, it’s a major breakthrough. We have four ladies that were trained internally. We believe that the emancipation of women is critical,” she said.
“It’s not an easy job for women as it requires one to be shouting all the time. We are happy that male buyers respect these women and they are not taken as the weaker sex,” she said.
According to Matanga, the idea of having female staff within the auction floor was being well-received by women farmers, adding that the company was looking forward to train more female workers .
“Going forward, we are going to increase the number of females. It gives a balance in terms of representation of women. It also helps in the perception of our farmers.
Remember the real farmers are women. We have seen female farmers getting excited as they feel that they are represented well by these women. They can easily go lodge their grievances to their female counterparts,” she said.
Grace Rubaba, one of the female workers, said when she joined the industry she felt uncomfortable due to male-dominance, but eventually adjusted.
“When I joined the industry we felt uncomfortable, but now we are used to such an environment. I joined the industry because I love agriculture and before I came to the floors I had been in the field,” she said.
“I started by understanding about tobacco while it’s in the field. I knew the process of growing and curing before I came to the auction floors. It’s now easy to do business because of my backgrounddeal. Even now I go to the field from time to time,” she said.
Rubaba said as starter she leads the sale, set the price before auctioning, controls the sale smooth floor and controls disputes if need be.
She said disputes may emanate when bidding buyers are interested in the same bale.
Apart from that, she is well-acquainted to use the electronic gadgets used on adhoc basis at the floors during the buying process.
Rubaba said she also liaises with the floor supervisor as well as Tobacco Industry Marketing Board officials.
Nomsa Muchinguri, who works as an auctioneer at the same floor, said she looks at bids and establishes who has the highest price before the ticket marker writes the price.
After the ticket marker writes the price, the ticket runner makes sure that the ticket is on the right bale.
“I am still getting into it, but it’s going on well. It’s now different than when I started because I am getting more experienced by the day. I started off as a trainee,” she said.