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Landscape of the Year 2018-2019 Senegal/Gambia News (12)

© Doris Banspach

The Women’s Initiative The Gambia in Njaw
During their travels to African countries, Naturefriends are especially interested in the role of women and visit exceptional women’s projects. For the “Tour d’Horizon” in January 2018, the participants got the chance to get to know a fantastic women’s association. Arlette Orry wrote an article about the visit for the current newsletter of Naturefriends France. The editors and Arlette gave us permission to print her text here:

„In Niaw, a small Gambian village at the border to Senegal, we visit the association ‚Women’s Initiative The Gambia‘. A group of women welcomes us with songs and dances, they wave branches to symbolise their work for environmental protection. The initiative’s founder had to quit school when she was eight years old because her father died. She stays home and tries to figure out how her future could look. She knows how to read and write and the village administration asks her if she will be willing to write the minutes for their meetings. Soon, she is called to other villages as well, where she gets a lot of experience through her contact with the meeting participants. At the same time, she instinctively starts to recycle waste. Bit by bit she learns how to create objects for sale. This allows her to generate a modest income and to motivate the other women in the village to follow suit. At this point, the group has five to six members. To motivate other women, they walk through the village and wave with bank notes. By now, there are 150 women in the surrounding villages and 11.000 in the region. The creative recycling is not their only concern. The also want to inform and raise awareness and offer cooking classes to show the women how to use wood more efficiently and to cook food in a way that preserves their nutritional value. The women’s organisation is fantastic: A small part of the income from the sales goes to the association and the rest everyone keeps for themselves – a part of that is used for daily needs, another part goes into small wooden boxes which are labelled with the women’s names and are locked. Those boxes are kept in big lockers under the supervision of the only male member of the association. That way, the women have reserves they can access when they need them.    Arlette Orry“

The initiative has a website, which describes the group as follows: The Gambia Women’s Initiative exists to support financially poor women in The Gambia with a stated goal of increasing their income, and thus improving the standard of living for their families and communities. Each project builds on existing or expanded rural women’s groups to give them an expanded voice in their own development. As part of each program, women are trained on not only the specific prefect, but on income generating basic activities, such as investment and decision making skills.

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