By Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
Gambia Women’s Finance Association has launched its owned finance institution – GAWFA Finance Company - with a celebration of joy and pride, a victory in taking ownership to become better citizens and contribute to women economic empowerment.
Pic: CEO of GAWFA, Mrs. Oley Njie Mbye
Launching of GAWFA Finance Company is a clear testimony that GAWFA is on the verge of achieving it vision to build a sustainable financial institution that meets the aspiration 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 low Gambia 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 Mrs 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 on Wednesday at the GAWFA head quarters in Kanifing.
She continued: “Launching GAWFA Finance Company today is a welcome move as the company is here to contribute to the empowerment of Gambian women.” She however noted that though GAWFA has contributed and continues to contribute to the development of a lot of women in this country and women themselves are very hard working, “there is still a long way to go”.
The Chief Executive Officer of GAWFA, Mrs. Oley Njie Mbye 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 consider as the “poverty trap”; the poor women are willing to escape poverty but are limited to do so by using the meager resources own. The challenges of obtaining loans from financial institutions can be attributed to many factors of the “poverty trap”as it can cause a vicious cycle of poverty, the poor women continues to get weaker and confined into extreme poverty if not economically empowered.
“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,” the GAWFA CEO, who has been a bank executive with over 16 years of diverse leadership experience, said.
She continued: “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.
Lack of economic empowerment causes low level of capabilities which is depicted as the basic failure of basic capabilities to reach basic necessities of life hence a form of social exclusion.”
CEO Njie-Mbye noted 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 the staffs of GAWFA to their CEO, Mrs Njie Mbye, for being a wonderful and a competent leader who always lead by example.
According to Hannah Davies, the chairperson of the GAWFA board, GAWFA is the laeding and the first microfinance institution established since 1987 in the Gambia with over 48,948 members and over 13,682 active borrowers and still growing. “We also have several branch offices spread in the rural areas in The Gambia.”
Mrs Aja Adulette Sey, one of the members of GAWF explained that GAWFA is here to uplift the status of women in order to eradicate poverty, as women are at the bottom of the poverty pyramid.
GAWFA delivers a breadth of financial services to its clients including capacity building through its partners and interrelated organizations.