Who is Lizzie Eunson?
Lizzie also known as Elizabeth Eunson was born and bred in Banjul to Edward W. Eunson, commonly known as Master Eunson of Hagan Street and Mrs Therese Desiree Eunson, a former headmistress of St Josephs, both of blessed memory.
A seasoned multilingual international banker, I got my early education in The Gambia, The United Kingdom and the United States of America, backing university degrees in Public Administration and Legal Support Sciences.
Tell us more about yourself?
I’m a daughter to Granddaughter to Magigain Njie from the Njie, Ndow, Saloum dynasty. On the maternal side granddaughter to Sini Ndong of the Ndong Serer lineage tracing back to Burr ba Salmon Faye and Charlo Bass from the Yandeh Nyinga , Mbenga, Manjang Kebbeh, Marie Bona Sarr families.
I am a happy mother to two beautiful children: Desiree and Edward and to my niece Rose Yandeh and a host of others whom I have assumed maternal oversight over. I am a seasoned multilingual international Banker having gained rich invaluable experiences in a wide range of roles covering retail and commercial banking, staff training, administration, financial management and lately operational risk. I am a dynamic leader who is proven to have sound integrity and an impeccable consistent work track record. This has earned me an excellent reputation in both national and international business circles. This has availed me the opportunity to work in a professional capacity in countries like: Gambia, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast amongst others where I’d been tasked with ensuring that the levels of operational risk exposures balancing growth with risk are being adhered to. As an international Business banker in the West I have managed Fortune 500 companies tiering in high dividends. l also have pedagogical skills having started my career as a teaching assistant at the Gambia High school right after graduating from High School.
In my spare time I play an active role in community based activities, women, children and family empowerment initiatives and the organising of various hospital charity events. I have represented Standard Chartered Bank on the boards of the Global Fund for Aids, Commonwealth Education Fund, RVTH/ EFSTH, and various UNDP Fora. I’m the founder of Mothers Against Sickness and Suffering, (MASS) a group of women aimed at assisting mothers with sick children especially that of hydrocephalus, a devastating illness, one I call a ‘feminised illness’ as it has dire consequences on mothers and siblings.
In The Gambia and beyond you are known only as an international banker, and so basically you only know where the money is and how to increase it but no background in politics. So why the sudden shift in career?
A background in politics does not necessarily make one a good leader. After all the president of our first republic was a veterinarian. A good leader is someone with vision, emotional intelligence and great leadership skills. A leader is someone who genuinely wants to better the lives of people. In order to achieve this, clear vision, courage, empathy, integrity, hard work, and the ability to choose and work alongside a great team are the prerequisites.
To those that know Lizzie Magigain, this is by no means a sudden change. It has always been in within me starting from my days as a student leader during school days in The Gambia. As a student in the USA, I was on two occasions, president of African students association. In the 90’s I was co-founder of the Gambia Leadership Conference in Washington DC, a platform designed to galvanise Gambian talent around the world, professionals, politicians and the general public, to focus on finding ways to development paths while also bridging the gap between the Diaspora and Gambia. It however reached a crescendo after I returned home to the utter degradation in particular of our dear Banjul.
Are you talking to any political parties to sponsor you?
Nation before politics. The future of Africa, Gambia included does not lie in political parties. It lies with dedicated individuals with a vision ready to create a platform and opportunities in which public, private partnerships can strive with only necessary governmental interventions.
Why do you want to become mayor of Banjul?
I want to effect the long-awaited positive change. I have the wherewithal to be the next mayor of Banjul. Mediocrity is no longer an option for the leadership of a capital city in the 21st century. I want to raise the dignity of the office of the mayor of Banjul. I am resolved that I, lizzie Eunson want to be part of the solution and not the problem. We cannot all be outside looking in saying ‘ndeysaan Banjul’ and complaining. No one talks about Banjul anymore with enthusiasm; we need a new leadership and a new direction. People are tired of the status quo that keeps electing the same types over and over. We want a regime change. I am the unifying candidate that stands for what is right about Banjul. I look forward to a revival of Banjul city.
What is your vision for Banjul?
In the short to medium term, I see a clean and green city with a healthy environment and healthy population. A city that encourages trade and eco friendly investments. A city where its youth are allowed to have the best education possible. A skilled workforce which is gainfully employed. I envision a city that cares for its old and cares enough to see that its physically challenged (differently abled) are given the right considerations. A city that is rich in its cultural heritage. Last, but not the least, I want to see BCC in active partnership with the government in ensuring effective zoning laws.
At a time when everyone is eyeing careers in politics, what do you think should be done for Banjulians to accept that you are in fact genuine and capable of bringing development to them?
‘Chin bou narah nekh sou baheh kheign’ Banjulians can start by checking the veracity of work records and relevant work experiences being put forward by aspirants. My educational and work experiences as stated put me in good stance to wear the mantle of mayor of Banjul. I have been tasked with managing multinationals, bi laterals, NGO’s and embassies, maintaining strong positive relationships with strategic partners all of which are relevant to the pragmatic management and partnership initiatives needed in the office of the Mayor of a capital city in this day and age.
I have also successfully balanced my work, life, family in a manner reflecting good economic focus and discipline. On being genuine, I have sacrificed and still continue to sacrifice more financially rewarding quests to come into and stay in the race for mayor of Banjul which I believe is a more noble cause. Scripture reminds us that ‘sometimes we are called upon to do the right thing’. ‘
Is it true that you worked with several Banjul women and help them acquire loans? Tell us a little about the scheme and your loan programs for the city women
I am passionate about women empowerment. When I started campaigning I realised that funding was a major concern to women. I therefore diverted my attention in getting fixes. We collaborated with a credit financing company in The Gambia which helps women entrepreneurs secure small loans. I came across a loan program for women which runs for 5 years and funds are disbursed every 6 months. This I found to be an initial good way to boost commerce especially for my market women in Banjul.
Another initiative I intend to undertake will be to coordinate with other groups in the Kombos; by merging these women groups with the former they can maximise profit by cutting out the middle man in forming some kind of cooperative ventures. I intend to use my monitoring and evaluation skills to make sure there is no default rate and to take this empowerment scheme to another level. My ultimate goal would be to connect with other local banks, international banks like the Women’s World Banking in New York and other international trade financing outfits around the world to create more sustainable opportunities for women in Banjul and beyond. Empowering a woman is empowering the home.
I have also extended the franchise and currently organising men into viable groups that will be well organised and structured in a way that they too can qualify for funding. That way when both the man and the woman are gainfully employed there will be harmony in the home.
As an international banker of 35 years, what is your overall assessment of the country’s banking and financial industries and what is the way forward?
Many years ago, upon returning home from studies I did an interview with the then Daily Observer. There, I equated the Gambian dalasi to the US dollar and called our dalasi the dollar of West Africa.
Today we still have a sound banking system. Having said that, we however need to above all have a very strong and sound Operational Risk Framework in place that will revisit all the processes, identify the possible failure points and put in mitigants to circumvent any possible failures.
This way risk can be monitored from a proactive, forward looking manner and not wait for disaster to strike and start going through the ‘could have, would have, should haves.’
What words of wisdom do you have for the electorate ahead of the looming May 12 polls?
We refuse to put square pegs in round holes. Banjulians are smart and cannot be fooled. Banjul is not for sale; we refuse to have our cards bought. We say NO to dirty party politics. Do thorough background checks as the winning candidate will be representing YOU, both nationally and internationally. Whoever wins will be the face of Banjul and Gambia by extension. What kind of picture do you want out there?
Listen to what each candidate has to conceptualise and how it is being articulated. This this time around more so that ever Gambia and Banjul is at a crossroads and the future of our city is at stake.
Let’s seize the moment, I don’t for one minute think that since Mandela, no other African country has had such goodwill extended to them by the international community as that which Gambia is currently enjoying.
What is your political slogan? BANJUL DESERVES BETTER!
JUUP ANDAK LEGAYE.
With competition for political offices fierce more now than ever before in Gambian politics, do you agree minority women politicians are in for even tougher times in new Gambia?
NO, not unless you want to put yourself in the victims box. When I became the first woman in The Gambia to put in her bid to be voted in as mayor of Banjul, one of my reasons was to showcase that your daughters, wives, sisters, cannot continue to be discriminated against by virtue of their gender but stand to be voted in by virtue of the content of their character. People are realising that women are equally as capable as their men counterparts and better at holding top positions as confirmed in a recent survey led by Professor Martinsen, head of Leadership and Organisational behaviour.
Do you believe you will emerge victorious at the May polls?
Yes that is why I am running.
What next for you if you lose?
Losing just like mediocrity is not an option in this day and time.
Life however goes on.
How will you celebrate?
I can only truly celebrate when Banjul becomes a capital city by definition and recognition.
Any final comments?
Together we can make Banjul the capital city it deserves to be because the strength of a country lies in its capital city. Banjul belongs to everybody. It is not just the capital; it is the FOUNDATION of the engine that propelled our nation into the 21sth century. Thus, bringing it back to standard is a SACRED OBLIGATION for every Gambian. So help ME GOD. Amen.