By ELIZABETH VUVU
WOMEN in Gazelle district of East New Britain have been given the opportunity to participate in small scale commercial and agricultural activities, thanks to an initiative established between the Gazelle District Development Authority (DDA) and East New Britain Savings and Loans Society (ENBSL).
“Women are the untapped resources that need to be empowered as they have the potential to boost the economy of the district and the country as a whole,” says local MP Jelta Wong.
Women are silent achievers and are often not recognised and they deserve to be given the opportunity to be successful in whatever they do. With this in mind, Wong had a vision to empower women and mothers in his electorate.
And so, the Gazelle Women in Business programme was launched in January 2020 after fruitful discussions with ENBSL.
An initial seed capital of K200,000 was parked at ENBSL and women in the district’s five local level governments namely Livuan-Reimber, Toma-Vunadidir, Central Gazelle, Lassul-Baining and Inland Baining were able to access this funding as loans with a loan repayment interest rate of only one per cent.
Months later, this programme is proving to be a success with K90,000 repayment received by ENBSL as of June this year.
According to ENBSL member service team leader Shirley Kabavas, they have given out K200,000 to 301 successful applicants in the five LLGs.
From statistics, Toma-Vunadidir was leading, followed by Lassul-Baining, Central Gazelle, Inland Baining and Livuan-Reimber. Lassul-Baining LLG had 31 successful applications which saw K50,000 dispersed and monthly repayments are being honoured.
“This programme has made an impact amongst the women who themselves have shown responsibility to borrow wisely and repay promptly. For them to access a loan, they have to firstly attend financial literacy training that will assist them in basic business principles. That is important in running and sustaining their businesses. We also encourage fathers and men so there is common understanding in the businesses.”
Kabavas says since the end of this quarter, ENBSL has not held back repayment funds back but rolled them over as part of the initial intended purpose of establishing a revolving fund to help other women in business whose applications who are in queue for appraisal and processing for payment.
“Before we disperse loans, we go for site inspections and are pleased to note that most women have tried their very best to comply. I would like to commend ward members and women representatives for playing a vital role in acknowledging applications and being honest that such SMEs exist at the respective ward levels,” she said.
From analysis, the different types of industries that women in Gazelle are obtaining loans for are poultry farming, road side markets, baking, tailoring, printing, cocoa buying, mini trade stores, joinery, logging projects, shell money dealerships, fuel sales and small scale fishing.
Kabavas maintains that ENBSL is keen to continue this public-private partnership concept and thanked the Gazelle MP and DDA board for the partnership and for having a heart for the women in the electorate.
On Friday July 2, Wong presented an additional funding of K100,000 to ENBSL for an extension of this programme.
As the chairman of the Gazelle DDA board, Wong believes in investing in the unique talents of local women to see positive outcomes driven through the household and the wider community.
“I am pleased to see women in my electorate being given the opportunity to be independent through SMEs, through this pilot project,” he says.
“I am very grateful that we decided to go into partnership with East New Britain’s very own bank – ENBSL. We are not here to make money but to ensure that there is proper documentation Women are trained how to do business, how to save and excel in business.
“ENBSL is offering the lowest interest rate at one per cent. It is not expensive and not something people should shy away from. If you repay your loan, the money goes to help other people and your family will improve and in return ENBSL is increasing its membership base,” he says.
The Gazelle MP is promising more support for the SME programme focusing on putting money into the pockets of mothers and young women.
“It’s about thinking big but you start small and eventually venture into your businesses. I urge women in our five LLGs to share experiences of growing their SMEs with other women to help them grow their businesses too. Let us work together to grow the SME sector in our communities as part of our contribution towards the Marape-Basil government’s overarching policy of economic empowerment,” Wong says.
At Inland Baining, over 300 participants have completed the financial literacy training and it is anticipated that the additional funding will prioritise them.
- Elizabeth Vuvu is a freelance writer.