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One-on-one with a buzzing woman

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Tell me about yourself, Amie

My Name is Amie Corr./ I was born in the village called Fass Njaga Choi, in the North Bank Region of the Gambia.

How was your childhood in In Fass?

I didn’t spend my childhood in Fass I grew up in Kerewan with my grandparents a Village in my region yet bigger than where I was born Fass. I was given to them solely for upbringing.

Did you have any challenges while growing up under the care of your Grandparents?

Well, living under a guardian is never easy sometimes very tough. The only time I can wear a clean uniform is if I go for a weekend and am given some grants. I wash my clothes and I also provide for myself the soap. Then a bar of soap costs 5 Dalasis. A shopkeeper does me a favour and sells half the bar of soap to me for D2.50, he cuts it into two pieces and sells the half to me. I will usually manage that soap until the end of the week. If the weekends and am unable to go at weekends, I will ask my friends who travel back to where my mum lived in Fass to send me some money. Which she usually does.

I also used to cook dinner every day after coming from school and that was a permanent chore, I had to do every day, that goes along with pounding rice with my hand using a mortar and pistol. It was very difficult for me I was very young then.

How did your situation at the time affect education I believe it must have.

I suffered a lot during exams I wasn't allowed to go and join my friends for studies and they wouldn’t allow me to get any free time there would be always something for me to do.

In Kerewan I went to school. I attended Berending Primary School from 1991 to 1996 and went to Berending Junior Secondary School post-graduation I went to Essau in 1999 for Senior secondary school and did Grade 12.

I later attended GTTI and did an IT Certificate program there. In 2005 I joined the Teaching field as an unqualified teacher, I was posted to Saint Peter's in Lamin village. I taught there for two years between 2005 to 2007. I was later transferred to Bwiam in the Fonis where I taught between 2007 to 2009

In the year 2009 I got Married to my Husband after getting married I stopped teaching and moved to Busurah where my husband lives.

How would you rate yourself as a student were you brilliant or were you just getting by?

Well, I used to try my very best like I said it wasn’t easy for me at all I was doing my utmost to pass my exams.

What made you stop teaching hence it was paying you some money?

I was under UQ (UNQUALIFIED TEACHER) the salary was not good.

Do you mind sharing with me how much you were paid back then?

The salary was D1050 dalasis(20 Euro) for a month which was around the year 2005 I will get 1400 or 1500 only if I do extra hours up to 13 hrs as a UQ. After getting married I figured it was a very bad salary back then, so I didn’t bother myself trying to keep the job. I made up my mind to venture into business.

How did you start your business?

I buy 2 kilos of detergent powder, 2 kilos of blue and 2 kilos of bleach and place the stock in a small bowl in front of my house in our compound in Busurah. I was on this for a while and had few customers in the household and around the neighbourhood.

One fine day I asked my husband to give me a loan of D3000, I used that money to buy Groceries and made a bigger table on the table I was selling detergents and, on the side, I had the groceries moving as well. After a while, I made some profit and I paid my husband the loan I had taken. I Continued my management sometimes it was cool and sometimes frustrating. A few years ago, during Ramadan (the Islamic month of fasting), I got inspired to bring in things that people will need to buy in the holy month. That worked very well it attracted a lot of customers.

A few years ago, A Microfinance bank came to our village and said they wanted to offer loans to our women and they wanted to choose me to be the leader of the women in my village. I was sceptical and worried about why they wanted to give loans to people whom they had no idea of their history or credit history. Because they didn’t ask us anything as collateral some women somehow got convinced and we gave it a try. Among the lot in my village, I was selected to be the treasurer of the group I was taken to Brikama for further training in handling cash.

Our group started taking loans from the Fintech company we started by taking D5000 each to be paid in six months with D150 as monthly interest for the bank, meaning after six months the Bank will get 5833 from each woman every month for the said duration.

After the first six months, another loan cycle came and I took 10,000 Dalasi’s. I managed that also to the end of the cycle, the same bank came again this time I took 15,000 Dalasi for this one I put the money into buying land which I could resale later, and I continued to manage my business. Because I put the 15k loan into land I had to rely on my profit from the business to pay it off . which I managed to do till I completed that cycle at the end of the 6 months, it wasn’t easy at all.

Days and months went by I continued to make it work in my business, Till another organisation arrived in our village this team came from around Serrekunda and they said they were there to train women in the financial literacy business in a nutshell, it happened to be Buzz Women Gambia.

Oh Ok that was the coming of our organisation Buzz Gambia in 2022…please proceed

That was a turning point because I was just doing business but to be honest, I wasn’t experienced in business but I find myself just doing it.

Tell us something about your Buzz Training what did it change because you were into business before meeting Buzz? How did the training improve or impact your business?

Yes, Thanks for that question, Kebba you know I was taking a loan from the Bank and growing and at the same time trying to save. The Buzz Training empowered me to stop taking loans from the bank. I was giving the bank a huge part of my profit every month 900 dalasis will be paid to them I will be left with a little to save. Now I am keeping that 900 a week to myself instead of the bank. I have noticed if the bank gives you a loan is like you are doing business for them they will get their money back plus interest., am now keeping the interest am supposed to pay them to myself plus my little extra savings.

After the training, I took all my savings from the bank and bought more merchandise to expand my business and now save on my terms and I don’t take their money I don’t want their money anymore. Before my training this process of business growth was difficult.

So listening to you Amie, can I say if I take a loan for business it seems am doing it for the Bank or the Brooker?

Yes, that’s correct because all the money you make will be used to pay back the interest. I will help them with their work but I don’t want their money. They asked wount I take their loan, I told them could continue being their treasurer but am not interested in the loans anymore. I opened a fresh account to save my profit.

Waw inspirational Amie. You said the Name of your shop is JAHAS BAHAS (locally meaning the mixup) Why will you name your shop the mixup?

Yeah if you observe you will notice a bit of everything, there are kid's clothing and items like buckets, Bassins, bowls, spoons, and many household items, back-to-school items after summer school break like pencils, books, set boxes, school bags and many more, out in the front you will notice drapes, carpets, door mats and more accessories, on the tables you have pounded maize good for making baby food and morning porridges on the other table I have everyday groceries women need to cook daily meals like lunch, etc. so because I sell a bit of everything I look for what the community needs and I provide it them. Many satellite communities don’t travel to Brikama anymore to get basic commodities like maize and millet.

Amie as widely known to us and the villagers you are the anchor woman of your group. what are some of the challenges women face in growing their businesses? And a follow-up what are some of the measures you are taking to support other women to realise growth in their businesses?

You will notice two women are selling fish around me. They are two in number In the evening when you visit here you will notice women selling all sorts of commodities. There was only one woman selling fish now we have two. I have a big freezer in the compound where we keep the fish when the sun is hot, every day after 3 pm we will all meet here and bring out the fish as well so they can continue their business. the evenings are a busy place for us you will find women selling groundnuts, Maise, Ice and many more and I will guide and advise them on the growth of the Business. One woman I remember said to me I don’t have any idea what to sell so recommended a few items for her to buy and resale another woman came with the same thing she lacked ideas on how to start her business. I advised her to get a bag of salt, which she did now she is selling a 25kg bag of salt every two days.

That’s nice so that means she has the area's salt supply as her business?

Yes, that’s right.

Are you also giving them essential business bits of advice to control spending and growth?

Yes, I do I have told them to always desist from taking loans and we had an initiative that we all contribute 100 dalasi a day for 5 days which sums up to D6000 and that money will be given to one woman to support or grow her business interest free and loan free.

That is our strategy after closing every day we contribute our 100s for the Osusu contributions. Just before you arrived this morning, we gave a woman who sells groundnuts 6000 dalasi from the contributions.

We can say you can empower yourself within the group.

Yes, very well.

What if am a woman in the group and I need the money will you guys contribute to support my needs? yes, that’s exactly what we do there is even this guy who sells grilled meat nearby he got him on board and he is part of our contributions and always checking on me for any new developments in the group.

In case the individual’s business is suffering he or she may not need to take a loan from the bank with interest we can support our business with this initiative.

Buzz as we speak has trained 500,000 women globally what’s your impression of that?

Waw am impressed and that’s satisfying to hear congratulations buzz, I wish we could do more if all women are empowered with these skills no one will suffer, before receiving such skills many women were suffering to make ends meet because they were unable to manage income and the skills to grow their businesses.

It was an honour Amie corr thank you for your kind words.

Thank you, Kebba, and everyone on the buzz team.

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