Friday, January 28, 2011

GAWFA heralds new beginning for Gambian Women

The new finance company launched by the Gambia Women’s Finance Association (GAWFA) to provide trade finance for women could be the start of better days to come for the country’s hardworking women. Lamin Jahateh reports.

Gambia Women’s Finance Company has launched its own finance institution – GAWFA Finance Company – to meet the business and trade finance needs of Gambian women in line with women economic empowerment.

The launching of GAWFA Finance Company, with celebration of joy, pride and victory, is a clear testimony that GAWFA is on the verge of achieving its vision of building a sustainable financial institution that will meet the aspirations of women in the vanguard of an evolving financial system, and regain market leadership by 2020 with a share of at least 50% of the market represented by local Gambian women.
“This is a timely and a very important move by GAWFA towards the economic and social empowerment of women and the development of the country at large,” said Aja Ida Faye Hydara, Executive Director of Women’s Bureau, while launching the GAWFA Finance Company on behalf of the Vice-President and Minister of Women’s Affairs, H.E. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, on Wednesday at the GAWFA headquarters in Kanifing.

“Launching GAWFA Finance Company today is a welcome move as the company is here to contribute to the empowerment of Gambian women,” she said, adding that though GAWFA has contributed and continues to contribute to the development of a lot of women in the country, “there is still a long way to go”.

Pic: CEO of GAWFA, Olie Njie Mbye, delivering her statement

GAWFA’s Chief Executive Officer Oley Njie Mbye, in her remarks, said: “At GAWFA we promote self-sufficiency, empowerment and capacity building which are integral not only for economic empowerment but also to human services and development in general. Having the resources for strategies alone is not enough but effective outcomes and sustainability are also fundamental for the advancement of women.”

The launching of GAWFA Finance Company is seen by many as a step in the right direction as it will provide banking services to that segment of the society who are hitherto “left out by the commercial banks” thus unable to access loan. Majority of these unbanked population are women many of whom are poor.

Gambian women are faced with the challenge of what is considered the “poverty trap”. The poor women are striving to escape from poverty but are limited to do so by using the meagre resources they own. The challenges of obtaining loans from financial institutions can be attributed to many factors of the “poverty trap”, but without loans or advances to augment their businesses and realise returns that can transform their economic conditions they would continue to wallow in the vicious cycle of poverty.

The GAWFA CEO, who has been a bank executive with over 16 years of diverse leadership experience, said: “Women are the most impoverished and underprivileged in the world. But we save bigger long term goals and are more committed to make positive changes in our lives progressively. We have effective leadership skills in managing scarce resources and can start something small and grow it big for better economic conditions.

She added: “It is therefore a moral obligation as global citizens not to lean back and ask what our governments are doing or can do; we need to get up and stand firm on our feet, roll our sleeves up and do our own part. We have our own part to play and ask ourselves what we can do for our country and the world in general to contribute directly or indirectly in many ways to socio-economic development.”

Mrs Njie-Mbye highlighted the unprogressive notion that women are generally expected to take secondary, passive role in obtaining credit, but major role in the household. “We are usually considered less suitable than men for higher responsibility on loan acquisition. It is paramount we solidify our own institution through microfinance, and have the ability to influence, or make decisions that affect our lives and be independent.”

The launching of GAWFA also witnessed the presentation of an award by staff of GAWFA to their CEO Njie Mbye, for being a wonderful and a competent leader who always lead by example.

According to Hannah Davies, chairperson of GAWFA board, GAWFA is the leading and first microfinance institution established since 1987 in The Gambia with over 48,948 members and over 13,682 active borrowers. “We also have several branch offices spread in the rural areas in The Gambia,” she said.

Aja Adulette Sey, a senior member of GAWFA, said GAWFA is here to uplift the status of women to eradicate poverty, as women are at the bottom of the poverty pyramid.

GAWFA delivers a bouquet of corporate services to its clients including capacity building through its partners and interrelated organizations.

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