The Women’s Initiative the Gambia(WIG) helps financially poor women in The Gambia to improve their skills and income so as to raise the standard of living of their families and their communities. Specific projects are established through local rural women’s groups. Projects coordinated with rural women’s groups will give women a voice in their own development, as they are trained in income-generating, leadership and decision-making skills.
WIG seeks to help disadvantaged people in The Gambia improve their income and their standard of living in environmentally positive ways. Empowerment of local constituents is integral in WIG’s approach–projects are established through local women, youth, and disabled groups to give them a voice in their own development and support improved investment planning and decision-making skills. WIG’s intent is to help rural villagers, particularly women, youths, and the disabled become effective economic agents in their communities.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Our goals are centered on the following:
- Empowerment: through training in income-generating and investment skills we support women and youths in discovering new capabilities and finding their voice;
- Corporation/Networking: through shared leadership within and among local groups we provide opportunities for women and youths to work cooperatively and thereby increase available opportunities;
- Growth/Creativity: through openness to new ideas we help develop women and youths’ creative implementation to increase their markets/skills and assure their sustainability.
Similarly, our objectives are centered on:
- Building the capacity of underserved populations—especially women and youth—to undertake group development activities;
- Introducing innovative and self-sustaining income generating activities for the target groups;
- Promoting environmentally friendly initiatives in the target areas;
- Promoting food processing and preservation in the communities;
- Enhancing gender equity and awareness within the program;
- Broadening and deepening networking with other development partners.
Our beneficiaries are the disadvantaged in Gambia: rural communities, women’s groups, youth groups, and disabled populations. We focus our efforts on the greatest in need, particularly populations with limited school or skill learning. Using this model, WIG is working with over 2,000 members in 50 groups across the country.
Women’s Initiative Gambia (WIG) was founded in 1997 and was registered as a Community-Based Organization (CBO) in 2012. It was founded by Isatou Ceesay, a Gambian national, and Carol Cunningham, an American citizen, in the village of Njau, Central River Region North, The Gambia.
The organization began as a small, environmental enterprise. Isatou and her collaborators identified a way to recycle discarded plastic bags into useful products, such as ladies’ bags, purses, balls, and wallets. They formed local women groups and trained them on processing waste plastic into long stripes which could then be woven into useful products. The women were able to sell these products, bringing in much-needed money, and at the same time helping reduce plastic waste in their community.
The initiative has since grown beyond plastic recycling to include other areas of recycling—such as briquette production from discarded groundnut and coconut shells and bag production from used rice bags—as well as teaching entrepreneurial skills and empowerment to women, youth and disabled groups. Today, hundreds of women, youth and disabled groups across the country are benefitting from WIG.
Since its inception, WIG has successfully implemented over 40 environmental and waste management projects across the country. Our flagship endeavors are in the fields of plastic recycling and fire briquette production. In plastic waste recycling, we provide skills training on turning plastic waste into plastic craft and training on the commercialization of recycled plastic waste products (entrepreneurship, record keeping, marketing, group management, and customer service).
In briquette production we train people in creating alternative cooking fuels from discarded groundnut and coconut shells, mango leaves, dried grass, and other organic waste to replace traditional charcoal briquetting—which causes deforestation and air pollution—and training on resource mobilization.
We also have a wide variety of other programs including school gardening, nutrition, and agroforestry/agriculture and bee-keeping. All of these projects work to improve underserved Gambians’ quality of life while reducing waste and improving environmental outcomes.
In WIG’s years of existence, we have numerous successful outcomes of our work. We highlight some of them:
- Increased Personal Incomes: Individual women make money that they then use for buying children’s clothes, education and improved nutrition. (Njau Community is one such example among numerous ones).
- Financial Empowerment of Women, youth and the disabled: Our collaborators make and control money and then gain experience in making decisions for their family.
- Community Empowerment of Women, youth and the disabled: Increased participation of women, youth and the disabled in decision-making at the village community development level shifts traditional power equations and creates new roles and strategies moving forwards;
- Increased self-esteem and cooperation among the village community;
- Modeling a new and empowered lifestyle for the next generation of women, youth and the disabled; and
- Sustainable income generation for which women, youth and the disabled have ownership. They are learning to help themselves grow and be accountable for their own success.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
WIG’s Managing Director, Madam Isatou Ceesay is the proud recipient of the “World of Difference” Award from The International Alliance of Women (TIAW) in Washington DC on October 18th 2012. The TIAW World of Difference 100 Award recognizes amazing individuals whose efforts have advanced the economic empowerment of women locally, regionally or worldwide and they are well known or “unsung heroines”.
In honour of International Women’s Day 2016, Isatou was recognized by Green Matters, a green lifestyle media company, as one of seven women pioneers in the world in the fight against Climate Change. In 2016, WIG won the Energy Globe National Award for that year. Energy Globe Award is an environmental award recognizing sustainable projects which conserve and protect the earth’s resources or that employ renewable energy.
Isatou co-authored a children’s book One Plastic Bag, with Miranda Paul, raising environmental awareness about plastic recycling. One Plastic Bag, published in the USA, is now in its second printing. Isatou has been making annual trips, since 2015, visiting the United States for tours and events promoting WIG’s environmental projects.
WIG has partnered with many international organizations to fund various projects. Among the funders are: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Union (EU), Action Against Hunger, Concern Universal/United Purpose (UP), Waste Aid (UK), Osten City (Belgium), Engineering Without Borders Ohio State University (USA).
Telephone: + (220) 7187413, 3253435, 9959065