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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Maa Foundation inaugurates ‘GambiFood’ processing center in NBR

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By Olimatou Coker

Maa Foundation for Women (MFW), a nonprofit organisation established to empower women through sustainable economic empowerment, over the weekend inaugurated the ‘GambiFood’ Processing Center in Kerr Jarga, North Bank Region.

This pioneering project is aimed at empowering Gambian women and fostering their involvement in political processes, transforming local community by tackling food spoilage and wastage, driving economic empowerment for women and fostering women and rural political participation.

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The facility was refurbished by the Maa Foundation for Women as a civil society that compliments the efforts of government with funding from UNFPA through the UN Peace Building Fund. It represents a significant step forward enhancing the socioeconomic conditions of women in The Gambia.

Speaking at the launch, the First Lady, Fatoumata Bah-Barrow, expressed appreciation and delight with the honour of presiding over the inauguration of the Center, a facility she said will undoubtedly promote women’s economic and social development. “Women can play an effective role once they are economically empowered, “she said women are underrepresented in the country thereby leading to challenges in accessing necessary support.”

The First Lady added that the Center will benefit the NBR women irrespective of their political differences.

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She noted that women entrepreneurs continue to suffer due to lack of mentorship “but the  good thing is that the establishment of the resource and empowerment center will undoubtedly empower women and address the existing challenges they faced.

Madam Bah-Barrow noted that  empowered women can play a critical role in nation building and promote peace and stability.

Ndeye Rose Sarr, the UNFPA Representative in The Gambia, highlighted that the facility is not just any resource center but also  a powerhouse of innovation, a dynamic hub where progress collides with empowerment. “It’s a living testimony to our joint commitment to spark positive change within our local communities. We are not just breaking ground but also breaking barriers for women and our vision is bold, rooted in the unshakable belief that women are the driving force behind peacebuilding,” Sarr said.

She revealed that the project isn’t just about fixing problems, but also about tackling the big hurdles that keep women from the limelight in the electoral process and political office in the Gambia, adding that they are putting the spotlight on the sky-high costs of running for public office, and  they are ready to shake things up!

“At the heart of their center lies a state-of-the-art food processing factory strategically positioned to minimise food losses within the community. We’re not just talking about addressing post-harvest losses, we’re talking about an approach to reducing waste, optimising resource utilisation, and creating a food ecosystem that is not just sustainable but resilient for our community. We’re not stopping at the factory’s walls, we are also turning heads by improving economic prospects for the incredible women in the North Bank region. The resource center isn’t just a place; it’s a portal to cutting-edge food processing technology and comprehensive skills training. It’s not just about empowering women; it’s about unleashing a wave of support for local entrepreneurs, breathing life into small businesses, and arming women with the confidence to navigate their financial interests,” the UNFPA Rep said.

Madam Sarr explained that the resource center aims to foster women and rural political participation. “In addition to the tangible outcomes of our food processing endeavors, the center commits to channeling proceeds generated from its ventures to provide tangible support for political campaigns during elections. This ensures that the voices of women resonate in the political landscape, driving change and shaping policies that reflect the needs of our community. I am thrilled to announce that during this launch event, a total of 76 women who have been trained at the center will be graduating. They’re not just graduates; they’re beacons of change, ready to illuminate the path ahead”.

Fatoumatta Jawara-Dukureh, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Maa Foundation for Women, underscored the importance of the project.

“The project is meant to empower Gambian women and their participation in politics. This is for Gambian women irrespective of political affiliation. I appreciate the support from the MFW team, community of Kerr Jarga, 58 great women and of course GRA for their support during transporting the equipment in country,” she said.

Rohey Malick Lowe, the mayor of Banjul, said Gambian women are vulnerable and all they need is immense support. She thanked the CEO of Maa Foundation for always empowering women, describing her as passionate about women. The mayor also called on women to support and be supportive to each other.

Lady councillor Awa Gaye addressed the gathering on behalf of the beneficiaries, expressing gratitude for the support provided by UNFPA through the Maa foundation. She emphasised the substantial efforts made by the Maa Foundation in bringing together 58 great women from various political parties, promoting the agenda of women assuming leadership positions.

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