Women’s empowerment volunteer programme 12 months on

Women’s empowerment volunteer programme 12 months on

We are proud of the work done by our partners in the Gambia at ITTOG (Institute for Travel and Tourism in the Gambia), by the women of the No Woman Left Behind Association, and by our volunteers – this has led to really substantial progress in this women’s empowerment programme over the last 12 months.

One year ago Sallie and I visited the Gambia and saw this programme in its early stages. Our partners had obtained funding to provide training in catering for a group of 30 disadvantaged women, but due to cutbacks within the funding organisation money had dried up and they were therefore unable to start the introduction to business course which was to be the second phase of the women’s training. Undeterred they had taken the initiative and formed a business association, but were not yet registered. Since then a number of volunteers have worked with ITTOG staff to develop the business course and with some of the women to build the capacity of the organisation. One year on the association is a legally registered organisation in The Gambia,has fulfilled a couple of big catering contracts, the business course has been written and is underway, NWLB is about to open its own shop and restaurant, and all the women are filled with enthusiasm about the skills they have learned and are excited about their plans for the future.

This is the story of how people and places volunteers have supported the development of this initiative, with each volunteer building on the work done by their predecessor – a great example of ‘passing the baton’ to develop skills over a period of time.

  • March 2022: Volunteer Sallie started the ball rolling, using her business knowledge to help to get NWLB registered as a business association, with a bank account. She worked with Fatou, the president, to develop marketing opportunities.
  • January-May 2022: Volunteer Sharon and Sallie worked with ITTOG in a series of online meetings to structure and write modules for the business course – Sharon’s personal development and event management skills were very important in making sure the course included lots of opportunities for active learning.
  • August-November 2022: Linda used her finance skills to work as an e-volunteer with Fatou and Bintou (treasurer of NWLB) on costings and budgeting
  • November/December 2022: Volunteer Ellie travelled to the Gambia and used her business skills to work with Fatou on marketing; together they wrote a business plan for NWLB
  • Meanwhile ITTOG staff continued to search for funding and developed the idea of experiential learning, so that the model of a year’s practical training followed by a year’s business training can be used in future for other courses
  • Fatou, working mainly with Bintou and Musu, worked to develop relationships with other women’s cooperatives. They looked for every opportunity to sell food they made, selling from market stalls and in the college dining room – eventually winning their first big contract, providing catering for a two week training course for teachers in October 2022. They started to develop plans for a NWLB shop.
  • The original funding organisation came back in January 2023 to provide funding for the second year of the course
  • February-June 2023: E-volunteer Mike used his teaching skills to provide training in teaching IT for Bakary and Fatou, the people who would deliver this section of the course (this is an ongoing placement)
  • February 2023: Volunteer Dianne travelled to the Gambia to use her curriculum management skills, working with Lamin (the business course leader) and Francis (the other main trainer) to finalise the course content and timetable the course
  • March/April 2023: Volunteer Michele used her team management and coaching skills when she travelled to the Gambia – she was there for the launch of the course on March 22nd and worked one-to-one with the NWLB women to build their confidence and and discuss and help to progress their plans for the future. She also worked with Fatou on an action plan for the shop and to help source suppliers.

Throughout our work with this programme probably the most important aspect has been the ongoing mentoring and friendship which our volunteers have provided, and which is continuing long after their placements have come to an end. We want to say thank you to all volunteers who have worked and are continuing to work with the women from NWLB and to wish good luck to the women on the course and the trainers from ITTOG as the course progresses.

We are looking for more volunteers to continue the wonderful work done by all these volunteers – we know at least two of you are planning trips to the Gambia later this year and we would love to find new volunteers to join you, either in-country or working online. Read here for more details about this programme, and if you are interested in volunteering please email dianne@travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk

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