Monday, January 24, 2011

‘Gambian Women Have a Long Way To Go’

Despite the relatively enormous strides, Gambian women still have a long way to go, especially in the area of awareness in accessing funds, the Executive Director of Women’s Bureau, Madam Ida Faye Hydara has said.
“Women complain of high interest rates. We should try to advocate and sensitise them on that for them to understand the policies behind interest rates,” she said while delivering a key note address at the official launch of GAWFA Finance Company Limited last week Wednesday.
 According to Madam Hydara, lack of awareness is one of the major challenges hindering the advancement of Gambian women.
In this regard, she said, women are unable to exploit the benefit of micro-finance, which is capable of positively changing their economic status within a short period of time.
 She pointed at the need for capacity building of The Gambia’s womenfolk as a foremost solution to women’s economic problem. “Women are just as good as men if given the same opportunity to access funds,” she said.
Nonetheless, with the establishment of the women oriented micro-finance institution, GAWFA Finance Company Limited, women will have the opportunity to change their lives,” Oli Njie-Mbye, chief executive officer (CEO) of GAWFA has assured.
She said her company will provide a safety net for the poor, as well as empowering women at the socio-economic level.
“We have long-term goals, and are more committed to making positive changes in our lives progressively. We have effective leadership skills in managing scarce resources and can start something small and make it big for better economic conditions,” she said.
Jane Clement, secretary of GAWFA Board, said the concept of GAWFA is to help mainstream women, especially those in the formal sector to participate actively in the socio-economic development of the country. She recalled that GAWFA, which started with ten women, can now boast of more than forty thousand clients nationwide.
Hanna Davis, chairperson of the GAWFA Board, revealed that her organization, which was set up in 1987, is the leading and largest micro-finance institution in the country and has more than 48, 948 members delivering financial and non-financial services to its clients, including capacity building.
According to Madam Davies, GAWFA’s mission is to serve as a financial institution to enhance the entrepreneurial development of women to alleviate poverty. Lamin Dibba, director of NGO Affairs Agency, said that a micro-finance institution is recognised as an effective tool to fight poverty by providing financial services to those who do not have access to or are neglected by the commercial banks and financial institutions. According to him, the UN has given prominence to micro-finance by declaring the period 1997 to 2006 as the first United Nations decade for the eradication of poverty by the international community. “It was in this context that in 1998, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2005 as the international year of micro-credit to recognise its contribution to poverty alleviation,” he informed.
He said that since the inception of GAWFA, it has been offering important financial and non-financial services to its clients, 96.2 per cent of whom are women. “This is a clear indication of the concern you have to empower this critical mass of our population who work around the clock to earn a decent living,” he said. Siaka Bah, a representative from the Central Bank of The Gambia, said in many developing countries, small-scale enterprises and micro enterprises face severe financing constraints, though with access to finance, they can participate fully in the economic life of their communities, create employment and realise their full potentials. “The design and delivery of financial services to vast numbers of poor, medium and low income people who do not have access depends on innovations, investments, cost reduction through improved efficiencies and effective use of technology, and an appropriate regulation and supervision,” he said.

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