Study on women's organizations in Brufut and Gunjur communities and the factors that favour or impede their sustainability in the Gambia
by Isatou Touray
Management Development Institute, Banjul
The study looked at women organizations in the Brufut and Gunjur communities with the aim of determining their objectives, the relationship between and problems within the groups, technical assistance needs of the groups, their credit needs and associated problems, their access to equipment, and the utilization of their revenue.
Thirteen organizations were studied, 6 from Brufut and 7 from Gunjur - two coastal towns in the Western Division of The Gambia. The population of the two towns combined is 18,627 of which women constitute 50 percent.
The major conclusions from the study are:
Generally, the women tend to come together on the basis of a common objective to empower themselves. The strategies applied are the fostering of unity, improving their living standard, and increasing their income.
The bigger organizations tend to have a more complete structure than the smaller ones. While the smaller ones have only a President and Vice president, the bigger ones have President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Social Secretary.
The sizes of these organizations range from 20 to 500 members. The most common criterion for membership of these organizations is to be female. Most of the organizations also require a membership fee. For eight of the organizations studied, the membership fee ranges from D5.00 to D50.00. An exceptional membership fee of D100.00 is charged by the Brufut Women Fish Smokers and Driers Kafo (a mandinka word for organization) of 36 women. In some cases, having exemplary character is demanded for membership.
All the year round activities occupy 92 percent of the organizations. Of this number 76 percent work as a group and 24 percent as individuals within the framework of an organization.
Written records of activities and decisions are kept by 46 percent of the organizations. Most of these, with sizes from 175 to 500 members, are from Brufut. This indicates that bigger organizations with complete structures keep written records of activities and decisions.
All the organizations covered encounter problems. These range from inadequate implements, lack of capital, to lack of transport. Those with severe implement problem constitute 62 percent, those suffering from a lack of capital, 30 percent, and those with transport shortage, 8 percent.
Finance and Credit
Contributions from members finance 68 percent of the organizations. The rest are financed through trade (petty trading, 8%, and sale of produce, 8%), NGO funds (8%), and membership fees (8%).
All the organizations need credit. But none of them had access to credit because it was either not available or the procedures for access are not known. Inability to get access to the credit institutions or agencies was reported by 76 percent of them. If they were to receive credit, 92 percent prefer group loan and 8 percent as individuals. The desired use for the credit has been expressed as increasing production (61%), buying more materials for their activities (23%), solving managerial problems (8%), and meeting production targets (8%).
In order to fill the gap in financing their activities, they engage in traditional fund raising. Traditional methods like drumming and kora (24 string Gambian musical instrument) shows are applied by 54 percent of the organizations. The revenue realised is used to buy equipment, materials, and to conduct maintenance.
Savings is practiced by some of the organizations. At least 54 percent are involved. Of these 72% save with the International Bank for Commerce and Industry (BICI) and 28% with the traditional scheme ("Osusu"). That indicates that either the BICI is more readily accessible to the women or they trust it more than the local scheme. The money saved is used as soft loan to members, as contingency funds, and for maintenance work. Apart from the savings, many of the organizations receive financial assistance either in cash or in kind. At the time of the study 2 received financial assistance from the EEC, I in kind from the Christian Children's Fund (CCF), and 3 received assistance in kind from the Women's Bureau and the Department of Community Development.
The study indicates that women do organize themselves in various groups to address their needs and aspirations. Each of the organizations has clearly defined objectives. In achieving the objectives they encounter management problems and little or no access to resources.
- A specially designed management training for members of the executives in the various women's organizations is essential to ensure an effective and sustainable structure.
- Target small group members for training on simple accounting, record keeping, and business management skills in the local language.
- Assist the organization by creating awareness on how to reach the relevant agencies for assistance.
- Fund raising activities should be encouraged to enable groups to finance their activities locally.
- Groups should be encouraged to save to ensure sustainability of activities.
- Deep wells should be provided to supply water for all year round activities.
- Provide appropriate technology for preservation of fish and garden produce. Train the members on the techniques.
- Create marketing outlets, proper storage facilities, and suitable sheds for selling fish to passersby at strategic locations along the roads.
- Adequate and suitable materials relevant to the group's activities should be provided in consultation with the organizations to encourage their participation in their development.
- Create a system to sensitize women's organizations on avenues to secure loans.
- Nutritional education programmes should be directed to groups that are working on improving nutritional standards.
- Provide funding to groups and individuals and monitor the utilization for effective management.
- Provide improved delivery systems such as good roads for transportation of goods to markets.
- Short term technical assistance should be provided to the organizations.
- Encourage closer working relationship between interdependent organizations that have complementary roles.