Shiphra Chisha is the Director of Programs at Graça Machel Trust (GMT), a Pan African women’s led organization, created in 2010, with a network footprint across 17 countries. She is also the President and Co-Founder of African Women in Business (“AWIB”), a Pan-African organization representing the interests of all women entrepreneurs across industries, with chapters across SADC. She is a Development Expert and Director of MKT Investments, a 15-year consultancy firm established to ensure sustainable socio-economic development (SED) through collaboration with mining companies, government, MSMEs (SMME) and other stakeholders. She is a member of the SADC Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade Steering Committee and Working Group and a Steering Committee Member of the Trade Forward Southern Africa (TFSA). She is also an Advisory Board Member of the University of South African Graduate School of Business Leadership, African Women in Power and Energy, and Pan-African Tech Foundation.

Shiphra Chisha, Director of Programs at Graça Machel Trust, sat down with us to discuss the empowerment of women in mining communities, advocating for gender-inclusive COVID-19 recovery strategies, building the next generation of women in leadership, and much more.

FinEquity Africa: Tell us a bit about yourself. A fun fact? Something that might surprise people about you? Any superpowers you might have?

Shiphra Chisha: I am a development expert with over 20 years of experience working in socio-economic development and with mining communities. This emanated when South Africa developed a mining charter about 20 years ago, to ensure that mining communities exist beyond the life of the mine through sustainable economic development and post-mining activities. The South African government wanted to ensure equitable benefits to local communities far beyond the closure of mines and not leave behind ghost towns.

I do not think I have superpowers, but any that I may have come from Jehovah God. I am a Christian and my strength and guidance come from Jehovah God and my family as my source of support. We work and represent a number of women’s networks and constituencies who look up to us and hope that we can succeed, so that they can succeed. I believe that when we are dealing with human souls, we need to tread carefully because we are on sacred ground.

The fun part about me is that I am a grandmother of two boys. One is eight and the other one is turning five. They keep me young.

FinEquity Africa: What originally drew you to the women’s financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment sector? What has kept you here and how did you end up at Graça Machel Trust?

Shiphra: Globally, our focus is on the Sustainable Development Goals and on eliminating social ills in society and challenges that women face. Women are dealing with multiple crises. They are faced with gender-based violence, post-COVID impacts on their businesses, and climate change.

My view has always been that while woman before us like Mama Graça fought for political emancipation, our role is to ensure that there is economic emancipation. It is my belief that if we can bring economic empowerment, we will resolve most socio-economic development challenges, such as gender-based violence which has increased in most African countries during COVID-19. It is my firm belief that if women cannot sustain themselves, they become vulnerable. This and other factors are the reason I think financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment should be a priority.

When provided with resources, women and girls will be less vulnerable to external factors. This was my primary reason for joining the Graça Machel Trust, as a complimentary organization to the work of African Women in Business and the work I have done over the past 20 years. The Graça Machel Trust (GMT) is a Pan-African advocacy organization focused on women’s economic advancement and leadership, advocacy, and adolescent girls. Our mission is to amplify women’s movements, influence governance, and promote women’s contributions and leadership in the economic and social development of Africa. The Trust advocates for the removal of structural barriers and transformation of institutions to enhance the lives of women in Africa and significantly improve their lives.

FinEquity Africa: Any current projects you’re working on that you’re finding particularly exciting/engaging?  

Shiphra: The Women’s Leadership for Financial Inclusion and Economic Recovery Project focuses on advocating for gender-inclusive COVID-19 economic recovery strategies that put women at the center of the economic response. It also promotes accountability for policy action. The goal is to build a critical mass of African women leaders in key economic sectors, who have the confidence and skills to exercise their agency and representation to advance women’s financial inclusion. It also aims to enhance the participation of women in financial regulatory policymaking through strengthening women’s networks. These networks elevate the collective voices of African women to improve women’s financial inclusion.

FinEquity Africa: What have been some of the most impactful findings you’ve come across in your career? What about in the last few years?

Shiphra: We are still dealing with challenges around access to finance and access to markets. It is said that 20 years down the line we are still talking about the same challenges. So, what have been some of the most impactful findings and programs?

The solution of effective ownership is defined as the meaningful participation of black people in ownership voting rights, economic interests, and the management/control of mining entities. This has been used by government as a tool to increase the participation of black people in the mainstream economy and to batte racial and gender disparities prevalent in the mining industry. It has made a great deal of impact and provided needed benefits to communities.

As a member of the International Women’s Forum, I am also proud to be afforded an opportunity to develop a program that will build capacity for 1,000 leaders in the financial services sector. This  leadership program has been running for 20 years and I was fortunate to be one of its fellows. Represented in 36 countries globally and by over 7,000 members, it is a progressive organization of women leaders whose vision is to facilitate positive change and to act as a catalyst for ethical leadership. The organization is committed to developing the next generation of women leaders by providing world-class leadership development programs and hands-on mentoring and coaching assistance.

The financial inclusion and economic recovery projects at the Graça Machel Trust are also two projects that are close to my heart and that I believe will create an impact in this space.

FinEquity Africa: What are some of your top priorities in 2023?

Shiphra: One of my focus areas is to strengthen the capacity of our networks because they are the heartbeat of the Graça Machel Trust. They have a wealth of experience and understand what is required at a grassroots level to build the strategies needed. Other focus areas include building our internal capacity to deliver on existing projects and influencing the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – especially the Women and Youth Protocol.

FinEquity Africa: What are some of your expectations for FinEquity Africa as a member of its Technical Advisory Group?

Shiphra: Our focus is on driving financial inclusion and impact, and on influencing policy. I see FinEquity Africa playing a big role and working with us as partners to make sure that we achieve our goals. This includes understanding what is required from the informal sector and how to drive products and access to finance for women. FinEquity Africa will play a large role in helping advance disaggregation of data to enable us to monitor our impact.

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