May 31, 2012, 3:31 PM
When women are empowered with the necessary skills or given finance to help them engage in small-scale businesses it helps them grow and when they grow, they grow with the economy of the country they live in.
Over the years we have seen African leaders making the empowerment of women their first priority and in The Gambia, as we celebrate the 22nd July Revolution, we are also talking about 20 years of women empowerment across all sectors of development.
Recently the government of Senegal has also reached out to the Senegalese women living in The Gambia through the Senegalese Embassy by giving them CFA 50 million grant to help boost their businesses so as to help them grow.
She-she-she caught up with Josephine Mendez-Wadda, who is a beneficiary and the President of Senegalese Catholic Organization, and “Anda Bokk legaye” Association, a group consisting of women.
The following is her remark on the development:
She-she-she: Could you please give us a brief background of the grant you received from the Senegalese government?
Josephine: The grant given to us couldn’t have come at a better time than now because in Senegal we had an election in 2012 and our President, Macky Sall, won with the help of the coalition which we are part of; so if he is ready to embark on development and also reach out to the people in the Diaspora, if we are not part of it, it will surprise us because we also voted for him while in The Gambia.
Our Ambassador in The Gambia called us, the women of Senegal, and told us that our President, Macky Sall, had started to reach out to the Senegalese that are living out of Senegal and wanted to empower us by giving us grants so that any little business anyone of us is engaged in could grow and we could benefit from it to help our families.
She-she-she: How much is the grant?
Josephine: The grant is 50 million CFA which could be more than D2 million.
She-she-she: What is the grant for?
Josephine: We Senegalese came to The Gambia to work; some of us get married here and are staying with our husbands because Senegal and The Gambia are one people, speaking the same local language and the only difference is that the British came to The Gambia and the French went to Senegal.
Some of us came to The Gambia with skills like tailoring, salon expertise, trading, restaurant operations, etc. We also find ourselves in a country like The Gambia with a President like President Jammeh who is into empowerment of women, who wants to help women who believe in working.
President Macky Sall wants to see improvement in Senegalese’s people and his slogan is: ‘Improvement’; so the grant is given to us so that it can help us improve on any business we are engaged in so as to improve ourselves and families and also the country we are living in, which is The Gambia.
She-she-she: Is the grant meant for groups of women or individuals?
Josephine: The money is for groups of women and before you benefit from it, you have to belong to a group.
If it is given to me as an individual, maybe I will just put it in my own use and my family and that is not the purpose of the grant. You have to be a group with an interest for you to benefit from.
She-she-she: Is it specific to a particular business sector?
Josephine: The money is not meant for a particular business sector. It depends on you the beneficiary and the type of business you do. It is up to you whether you are into tailoring, salon, and trading, buying and selling fish or vegetables, etc.
She-she-she: Is there any interest attached to the grant?
Josephine: After taking the grant and working on it, you will return it without any interest attached to it. EcoBank is the bank where the money will pass through but it has not attached any interest to it too. The amount given to you is the same amount you will return to the bank without adding any interest to it.
What is interesting about this whole grant is that our Ambassador Diagne makes sure that the grant will not return back to Senegal but it will stay here and when we return it, another group of Senegalese women will also benefit from it and it will keep on rotating. The groups are 23 and we will all benefit from it.
She-she-she: What message do you have for the women who are beneficiaries of the grant?
Josephine: I want them to know that money is full of trouble; let them not use it to pay their debts because the money is not meant for that. Let them not say that the ‘Koriteh’ is coming and use it for that. The money is for them to work and they should not be in haste for profits because no matter how small the profit is, if you are patient and always putting the profit aside, you will surely get what you want.
She-she-she: What is the duration of the payment of the grant?
Josephine: The duration given to us is 18 months.
She-she-she: Do you have any words of appreciation for the Senegalese Government?
Josephine: I am thanking our Ambassador, Diagne, because what he did for us, none of the Ambassadors before him did that for us. I have spent 14 years in The Gambia and all those Ambassadors that were here before only listened to different groups but never act but when Diagne came he reached out to the women and is helping us.
This is why when he heard that President Macky Sall is giving a helping hand to those living outside Senegal, he made sure that those in The Gambia also benefit from it.
I believe in African Renaissance and what President Macky Sall did to reach out to his people living outside the country is good and the African leaders should follow suit and make Africa a better place for Africans.
She-she-she: How do you see The Gambia?
Josephine: There is something I have seen in the Gambian journalists that I like very much and hope to see it in Senegal too. The Gambian journalists and people are discipline. It is because of that discipline that is why you love and appreciate your President.
Democracy is in The Gambia and it is very nice because it goes with discipline. Anything in this world that lacks discipline will not work. Discipline is very important and discipline is accepting what God wills.