By Momodou Jarju
The Gambia’s Vice President, Ousainou Darboe yesterday 27th February, 2019 presided over the Launch and Investment Tank Day ceremony of the ‘She Trades’ Gambian Chapter held at a local hotel.
The International Trade Center (ICT) launched the She Trades initiative (a global initiative) to create an ecosystem of integrated solutions that empower women economically through greater integration in trade and investment.
The initiative goal is to connect three million women to the market by 2021 and plans to work with partners including governments, private sector, international organizations, and others to expand opportunities for women entrepreneurs.
Mr. Darboe, who was accompanied by the trade minister Amadou Sanneh, said The Gambia is pleased to be part of the initiative saying the role of women in economic growth and development cannot be over emphasized.
He recalled that the Government of the Gambia in collaboration with ICT launched the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) which in two-years of existence has created 500 employments, paid 2000 youth and supported more than 400 Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country.
He said women constitute the backbone of the economic activity in many sectors yet they are underrepresented in the formal sector.
“Despite the prevalence and growth of potential of women entrepreneurs they face significant constraints to grow and increase their participation in international trade. Obstacles include gender blind failed policies, lack of access to support systems, exclusion from public procurement, etc.,” Mr. Darboe said.
According to him, in order to enhance the participation of women in the global trade, a particular attention should be paid on supporting Micro Small and Medium-sized Enterprises that can create more jobs for women and youth.
“The Gambia’s economy is characterized by micro enterprises which operate in several sectors and in which women play a key role,” he said.
The UDP party leader said the Gambia Government will continue to engage the international communities to significantly increase transparency and visibility in its trade and investment environments and in their democratic processes through reforms in relevant sectors and policies.
The British High Commissioner in The Gambia, Ms. Sharon Wardle said they recognize the importance of trade as a lever for equality and supporting women in trade matters.
She recalled that in April 2018, the British prime minister launched the ‘She Trades’ Commonwealth Programme and thus she committed herself to follow up with her colleagues in London to make sure that The Gambia, a newly rejoined member of the commonwealth, gets to benefit from the programme.
Ms. Wardle urged women entrepreneurs to use networks like ‘She Trades’ to help fix their challenges. “Don’t let… the barriers stop you from doing what you are absolutely brilliant at,” she said.
Mr. Attila Lajos, European Union (EU) Ambassador in The Gambia said a meaningful use of trade can really push Gambia’s development.
He said gender equality has not been met in any country yet, to tackle this, he said people must recognize that women suffer disproportionately to men in almost all spheres of life. “And we must choose every day to actively address this reality,” he added.
Mrs. Fanta Bai Secka, the executive director of Women’s Bureau said women are already organized but lack financial support. She therefore urged the government to provide 10% procurement to women business enterprises which would enhance their trade and business.
Several other speakers spoke on the idea of promoting gender equality in business and or trade in the country. The day-long event brought together over hundreds women and some men in the aforesaid sectors filling the hall to the very brim.
Meanwhile, Gambia is the first in the sub-region to benefit from this global initiative with consultation amid the government and initiator starting a year ago. Plans are afoot to launch a similar project in Senegal according to ICT officials. The project’s span is three years and intends to reach at 500 Gambian women.