Bridge to Opportunity: Ndey's Triumph Over Migration Despair
06 October 2023
In the bustling town of Soma, straddling the Trans-Gambia transport corridor, Ndey Fatou Ceesay's beauty shop buzzes with life. Shelves abound with handcrafted beauty items, tantalising scents of Gambian incense waft through the air, and an array of cosmetics invite the gaze of passers-by.
But it's more than a shop; it's a testament to an extraordinary journey from a perilous migration attempt to become a successful entrepreneur.
Leaving the modest town of Soma, Ndey sought a new life in Europe, embarking on a dangerous journey that led her to being kidnapped by human traffickers in Agadez, Niger. Migration in these areas often brings with it many risks for communities, such as sexual harassment, crime, and human smuggling given how porous borders are.
Defeated but not broken, Ndey returned to her hometown. It was a pivotal moment at which despair could have overhwelmed her. Instead, it ignited a spark that transformed her life.
Back in Soma, with the newly constructed Senegambia Bridge heralding a flurry of trade opportunities, Ndey ventured into the beauty business. Symbolizing the potential for growth and regional integration, Ndey harnessed this increased mobility to establish a thriving cross-border business.
With funding from the Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, the International Trade Centre (ITC) supported Ndey with training on trade, entrepreneurship, digital literacy, coaching and opportunities to showcase her work at trade fairs. Her beauty shop blossomed, a colourful oasis amid the dust and hustle of the transport corridor.
Ndey recalls her debut at the National Youth and Women’s Agribusiness and Tourism Trade Fair trade fair: "I was a little nervous; it was my first time. But it ended up being a life-changing experience." Sharing her work with a wider audience, networking with other businesses, and learning from seasoned traders catalysed her growth. It also boosted her sales and broadened her perspective on her business potential.
"I never thought I was going to make that amount of money," she says, her face lighting up as she shares her success. "I've generated over $1,344 in just 21 days. It has been fantastic." A staggering sum compared to the Gambia’s average monthly wage of US$68.
The transboundary and business trade rules, and procedures were initially intimidating, but thanks to the training provided by the ITC, Ndey has found her footing. “The training was an absolute game-changer,” she acknowledges. “I comprehensively understood trade rules, entrepreneurship, and financial management. Now, I easily navigate business transactions, both locally and with our neighbouring countries.” Thirty other women entrepreneurs in agro-processing, fashion, cosmetics and horticulture also benefitted from this support.
Today, Ndey is a beacon of hope and resilience in her community. She has extended the fruits of her success to others, employing two youths from her town.
Her story offers a powerful message of perseverance and triumph against all odds to Soma's women and the entire Trans-Gambia transport corridor. As Ndey casts her gaze to the future, her dream is clear – to expand her beauty business across The Gambia and the West African region, touching and transforming lives, just as hers once was.
For more information about the UN's work in the Gambia, please visit gambia.un.org.