GNA Feature by Samuel Akapule
Bolgatanga, Nov 23, GNA - Established as a community owned financial institution in 1996 in the Upper East Region, the Builsa Community Bank Ltd (Bucobank) currently has four branches.
The branches are found in Sandema in the Builsa North as the Head Office, the Bolgatanga Municipal, Fumbisi in the Builsa South and Mampurugu-Moaduri Northern region.
The Bank which is regulated by the Bank of Ghana and supervised by the ARB Apex Bank Ltd has more than 1,000 shareholders made up of individuals, groups and associations.
The Bank is one of the rural and community Banks in the country that has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that it is committed to economic empowerment of women.
It is currently supporting over 30,000 women beneficiaries under its “Credit with Education Scheme” to undertake small income earning activities in its operational areas.
Throwing more light on “the economic empowerment women model” initiative introduced by the Bank, the General Manager of the Bank, Alhaji Awudu Hayatudeen, explained that the Bank in collaboration with UNICEF implemented the Credit with Education Scheme that targets small income earners.
The partnership helped in providing micro loans to women groups as well as educating them on health, nutrition, sanitation, and business among others. The financial support has greatly aided in transforming the lives of more than 20,000 women. The education aspect of the intervention also helped in the eradication of malnutrition of children in the Districts.
Also, under the “Susu Deposit” linked with Micro insurance scheme recently introduced by the bank, about 2,000 women within the catchments of the Bank are benefitting from the product which has empowered majority of the women in these women’s groups to engage in petty trading such as kenkey selling, vegetables, parboiling of rice among others to fend for themselves and their families.
Additionally, through the support for “Women in Agriculture component”, more than 7,000 women are currently benefitting from the product which had empowered many of the smallholder women to undertake farming activities in the areas of rice, maize and groundnut farming including animal rearing.
Another significant milestone adopted by the Bank to economically empower the women groups is in the area of capacity building training.
Literature from the Bank made available to the Ghana News Agency revealed that more than 10,000 women have been trained in their income and economic generating activities thereby boosting their economic status.
Speaking to some of the leaders of the beneficiary women groups, they confirmed the gains made by associating with the Bank and indicated that apart from the financial support received from the Bank, they had received series of trainings including; capacity building from the Bank and its partners.
Madam Agnes Atayila, one of the leaders of the Women groups in Bolgatanga, mentioned some of the training components she and her group received to include; Basic record keeping, Financial Management, Good agronomic practices, Cash Flow Management, Security and Risk Management and Health and Nutrition.
Madam Atayaila stated that the outcome of the interventions particularly in the areas of capacity building had led to the economic growth of many of the women in the groups. Areas such as small and medium scale enterprises, vibrant formation of more economically active women groups, increase in the recovery of loans and advances to more women groups and increase in women participation in agribusinesses within the Bank’s catchment areas.
The training component had also helped Improve the business knowledge and expertise of the women groups, increased the confidence of the groups in the banking system which has reduced the high rate of women who did not save with Banks generally in the catchment area. It has further empowered the groups in basic record keeping of their business which has helped in the management and sustainability of the groups businesses.
According to madam Atayela “Unlike before, many of the women who have been supported to set up their own small and medium scale enterprises can now settle the medical bills and school fees of their children even up to the Senior High and Tertiary levels.
Madam Atayela who is a nutritionist, said Food security in most households of most of the women groups have improved because “many of us can now use part of the profit we make from our businesses to buy foodstuff to supplement what we harvest during the rainy season which has improved our nutritional status”.
The General Manager of the Bank told the GNA that the Bank and its partners deliberately empowered the women economically instead of men, because they believe that if women are economically empowered, it would trickle down more at the household levels to benefit entire families particularly children and women.
He noted that apart from the Bank initiating some interventions to economically empower women, it has also introduced considerable numbers of innovations that makes it unique from other Rural and Community Banks in the Northern sector in particular and the country in general.
The Bank, he noted, since its inception has provided its clients with customised and easily accessible banking products and services.
“It is the first Rural and Community Bank to computerise its operations in the three regions of the north since 2010. The Bank has since leveraged on this technological platform to provide timely solutions that has been the major turnaround for the businesses of our clientele” he stressed.
He indicated that the Bank is currently the market leader in the Upper East Region with regards to the provision of e-zwich biometric card banking solutions and also has recently invested in ATM devices with the objective of providing 24 hour banking services to its cherished clients.
INNOVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The Bank has also introduced a Mobile App solution called U-Connect. The App is available on Google and Apple Store and it offers customers the opportunity to check their balances, make transfers to other RCBs and other Commercial Banks, Bills Payment (Light Bills, Water Bills, DSTV, GoTV etc), and the purchasing of airtime across all mobile communication networks.
In conclusion, while commending the efforts of the Builsa Community Bank Ltd (Bucobank) for initiating the number of interventions to empower women economically, there is the urgent need for other Rural and Community Banks to follow up to help empower more women to reduce poverty and hunger.
When this is effectively done, the ripplling effects on sustained livelihoods and improved living conditions of many rural dwellers would significantly meet targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals.