Journey of the Resilient Woman of Gabu

Economic Empowerment of Women in Guinea-Bissau

February 16, 2024

Sarita at her Restaurant

Photo: ENGIM/ Elena Touriño Lorenzo

Sarita Paulo, a resilient and hardworking lady from Gabu used to work in a public organization in Bafata and left when she decided to embark on an independent and lonely economic journey from working for someone to a sole businesswoman — in pursuit of her passion for cooking and dream of owning her own business. Overall Gabu whirlwind of people, with the market in full swing. On one of its quieter streets is Sarita Paulo Alvarenga’s restaurant, which is a haven of peace amidst the morning hustle and bustle of the city.

Sarita applied to be a beneficiary of the LIFE (Local Innovation Fund for Entrepreneurship), funded by UNDP. Through the support from the intervention, she was able to improve her business skills, and restaurant space, and buy the necessary materials needed and not possible for her when she took the initiative to start her own business. Today Sarita has a vibrant restaurant where she cooks and serves an average of 50 customers a day.

“I have learned many things that helped me to improve my business and I also got funding to improve the space and to buy materials that I needed, which I couldn’t afford previously”
Sarita Paulo — Project Beneficiary from Gabu

Furthermore, her business expansion resulted in employability and income generation for other women in the locality — as of now total of five employees are working with her, as compared to three before. Sarita is aiming to employ more people because there are limited employability options and she conveyed that she feels an obligation to help others when her own business is expanding and growing. In Gabu regions locals do not have a high level of education, including women and the young. The LIFE intervention has contributed to improved living conditions of over 600 micro small medium business owners like Sarita.

“Now we can work in a much better way, solar-powered electricity generation system and a freezer that we were able to buy after the financial assistance helped me to improve the quality of service offered and to serve many customers more conveniently”

About the project:

Sarita journey was a part of the Local Innovation Fund for Entrepreneurship — LIFE (Scaling-Up 3x6 Socioeconomic Development in Cacheu, Bafata, Gabu and Bijagos Archipelago Regions). A project supported by UNDP-Guinea-Bissau has the below set of interventions:

· Selection and training of Business Mentors in business incubation and acceleration, to promote an entrepreneurial ecosystem even in the most remote and hard-to-reach regions of the country

· Trained beneficiaries were able to present their business models, according to ideas and business models developed during the training period — with a focus on sustainability, business viability, innovation and its positive impact on the local population.

· To ensure sustainability Diagnostic visits were made to the locations indicated for implementation for the beneficiary to better understand and know the place where the entrepreneurs’ businesses were implemented, verifying the location of the business

· Youth-led and women-led innovative entrepreneurial activities were focused and supported in several regions of the country, which led to decentralization of socioeconomic decision-making based on local knowledge

· Financial support for the local beneficiaries/applicants after the intensive due-diligence process (Funding is exclusively for business; Accompanied and guided by the monitors during all the project activities; Collaboration and compliance with rules and regulations; Funding amount of 1,624,000 XOF); Opening of the savings account and deposit of 120,000xof at the Bank)

· Mentoring process of the selected beneficiaries by focusing on Bookkeeping; Business model adaptation; Knowing your market; and Family finances vs business finances — Considering that these are mostly new businesses, women and young people, the accompaniment phase is fundamental in supporting the beneficiaries in understanding the importance of the division between family economy and business.

· Key priority areas of the LIFE project : Equal participation of women and young people; Inclusivity having a focus on leaving no one behind; Relevance of market analysis at micro (regions), national and international levels; Encouraging the creativity of the beneficiaries; Digital education for business management; Importance of promoting an entrepreneurial ecosystem at regional and local level; Allow new enterprises to scale-up, thus increasing their profits and injecting money into the most remote communities in the country.