How Tekki Fii Mini Grant is impacting Lives in Gambia

By Ndey Sowe

At just 9 years, Luwang Cessay found solace in her father’s tailoring workshop where she found joy operating sewing machines of all kinds. Even when her tiny feet failed to touch the pedals, her dreams and hopes of becoming a tailor in the future, kept her on her toes.

Luwang, the only seamstress in Pakalinding, is on a journey to realize her dreams and to grow her father’s legacy. As a beneficiary of the ‘Tekki Fii’ mini grant, she has grown a business that operated within the four corners of her living room from a single sewing machine, to a blossoming tailoring workshop along the highway, with three sewing machines and other necessities for the growth of her business.

“Before the grant, my only market was my relatives and people in my immediate surrounding. Now, many people see my shop and they get to see me work. This past Eid-ul-Adha celebration was a perfect depiction of how much my business has grown,” she recalled.

Just like a lot of young people in the country with dreams and ideas to make it in the Gambia, she was caught up in financial obstacles which she never imagined would happen. However, with persistence, dedication and support from the European Union, Luwang has jumped past these hurdles and getting closer to her goals.

“Everything you aim for can be achieved and everything you tell yourself can be done, will be done,” she believes.

Luwang sends sincere gratitude to the European Union for their support.

“They are the reason I am who I am today. They fueled my aspirations and made it a reality,” she said.

When asked what her message to young people of the Gambia is, Luwang called them to work.

“Do not lose hope or idle around. Just like a scroll through a grant application on Facebook brought my dreams a few feet closer to me,” she advised.

Lamin Saidy

In Soma, a community that is 125km away from Banjul, resides another young man who is motivated to make ends meet and pull his family out of the pits of poverty.

Lamin Saidy, a renowned auto-mechanic in his neighborhood, is inspired by the deep desire to ensure his younger siblings live a better life, have access to quality education and other basic amenities that they can use to create a better future for themselves. Lamin has worked as a mechanic for over fifteen years now and he earns his living and provides for his family from the trade.

“My family and I have lived through many difficulties. I wake up every day with thoughts about them, and how to make their lives better,” Lamin recalled.

Like many young people in the Gambia, Lamin spent long nights in his room contemplating about embarking on the irregular journey to Europe. This dream like that of many young and hungry people in the Gambia, has lost the country the precious lives of many of his young colleagues in the deadly Mediterranean Sea. Lamin believed that this was his easy pass to make his dreams and desires for his family come true. Deep in thoughts, Lamin reflected on those gloomy days.

“I remember how I told myself that I will embark on this journey for my family. That I was useless if I could not make their lives better,” Lamin shared.

After hearing about the Social Development Fund’s mini loan scheme through the International Trade Centre, Lamin decided to give life one more shot in the Gambia.

In 2019, on a very sunny afternoon with little motivation and will to complete his tasks for the day, Lamin was met with the news of his successful application.

With a broad smile and eyes hungry to conquer the world, Lamin said he “felt happy”; that he was engulfed with immense joy with his first thoughts on ways to expand and grow his business.

When Lamin received the loan, he bought materials for his workshop and started his own establishment. He bought a tractor to deal in stones and sand where he employed five young people in Soma.

He recollected: “Before the loan, I was working for someone else. But now, I have my own business where I have employed other young people in my community. The grant has really changed my life.”

Now in his final loan payment phase, Lamin shared that this is the best thing that has happened to him. He wants every young person who reads his story to be inspired and walk down the streets of the Gambia with hopes that they too, can make it here in the country.

Isatou Simaha

However, starting a business requires much more than courage. The ability to keep moving even when things get tough has been Isatou Simaha’s mantra. Isatou could not complete High School due to financial challenges. She later got married and became a house-wife with two sons.

Her love for doing anything that is fashion-related, motivated her to get into the fashion industry. Isatou started with a small shop where she sold threads, sewing pins, zips, buttons and little materials that people need, to sew clothes as a way of starting a business since she cannot have enough money to buy a sewing machine, nor open a tailoring workshop.

“I did not have any source of finance at first. As a housewife, I keep some money from my monthly allowance given to me by my husband. This was what I used to start my little business. Later on, I bought one sewing machine for D7,000 which I eventually used to start my tailoring business,” Isatou narrated.

Isatou later benefited from the ‘Tekki Fii’ mini-grant loan of D50,000 which bought her two industrial machines and one over-loop machine including the one she bought for herself, making it four machines in all. She now employs two people who work for her. Isatou further said that she has grown beyond measure with the help of her coach.

 “GIZ through GIEPA helped me personally by giving me a coach to assist me on how to run my business up to the level that it has reached today. I can say that I have one of the best coaches who was always there to listen to me, along the six-months journey through my business, and even today he is there for me for any assistance that I need,” Isatou said.

Modou Korka

With the strong desire to succeed and live a better life, Modou Korka, another young Gambian, took the irregular route to Europe to seek greener pastures. His journey stopped in Morocco where he was forced to use his skills for survival. With the endless hardship and the daily struggle to survive in a foreign land, Modou decided to come back to the Gambia and give his dreams one more shot.

Modou currently manages two barbing saloons called “China man Barbershop” in Bakau, where he earns a living, trains and employs other young people and takes care of his family needs.

Modou said he started barbing in school, and fell in love with the art; adding that he explored ways and means to better himself in it. As a beneficiary of the Youth Empowerment Project/Andandorr programme, Modou has developed his skills to support the management and growth of his business.

 “Through this programme, I have learnt better ways to manage my business and maintain a standard record of my earnings. It has given me room to network with other professionals and realise my ambitions,” Modou reflected on his project journey.

He said he believes in hard work and that his goal in life is to support young people in his community with skills and knowledge that they can explore to realise their potential.

“My dream is to turn around and see young people of Bakau doing great things and living decent lives. Through my business, I am working to achieve this by training and employing as many young people as I can. I strongly believe that development cannot happen with the majority of the population still struggling for their daily survival,” he said.

When asked of his message to young people, this was what he said:

“I want every young person to believe in themselves, to explore their talents and strive to be better at everything they do.”