High interest rates impeding women’s empowerment


While speaking recently at a Tango policy dialogue on the topic ‘lessons learnt over the years and the challenges’, she revealed: “We have the traditional and cultural practices and its negative consequences including gender violence. When you talk about women empowerment, you have to talk about all these issues that impede women empowerment. When women have equality there is equality and progress for all because we are the home-makers. According to statistics, the majority of the Gambian population are women. So if the majority of the population are downtrodden, if the majority of the population are not educated, then the rest of the population would not be developed. These are the key issues we have to always have in mind when we talk about women empowerment or women’s issues. What is the benefit of African renaissance for the poor African woman in [rural] Kiang or Baddibu? It is for women to have the confidence in themselves, trade among themselves and enjoy peace in the country. We at the Women’s Bureau are all working for the empowerment of women at the grassroots.

Dilating on women’s access to productive resources to increase the mound of their contribution to national development, she added: “In Nigeria, you have big businesswomen who can move mountains. Why can’t we have the same here? I am glad that we have somebody here from the bank. The interest rates are so high it is almost impossible for women to meet the requirements. We have the visacas and other micro-finance institutions but all of them have high interest rates. It is almost impossible for women to make an impact from those productive resources. Most women are unskilled agrarian farmers and are responsible for 40 percent of agricultural production in the country. Their massive contribution does not translate into improved socio-economic status for them. We should work on increasing women’s access and control over financial resources.

“Women should be able to have control over their reproductive health. Women should be able to decide, together with their husbands of course, whether they want to have three children or four. But most don’t have that choice which is why we have a high maternity rate. Polygamy is also a contributing factor. Women are not allowed to inherit full but only half. That is why if you have one woman having only girls she will go ahead having kids to have males and by the time she got the fifth child she is dead and the children will suffer. These are all things we have to look after. When you look at the issues of adolescent marriage and fertility, you know we have to do more sensitisation and capacity building. Women empowerment should be at all levels; cabinet and offices. Sometimes boards are constituted with only one woman.”



By Sainey Darboe