Sierra Leone: New Ecowas project seeks to empower female entrepreneurs

Sierra Leone’s First Lady Fatima Bio has called on Sierra Leonean women to take full advantage of a new opportunity provided by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to empowerment themselves through business.The ‘50 Million African Women Speak (50MAWS) platform, a project implemented by the West African bloc, seeks to provide opportunity for women in business to use the internet to advertise their businesses for a wider reach.

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50MAWS is an initiative of the African Development Bank (AfDB), which is providing the funding, in partnership with the regional blocs ECOWAS, the East and Southern Africa Common Market (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC).

It aims to improve women’s ability to access financial and non-financial information, to facilitate peer-to-peer learning and access to business financing opportunities.

Through this initiative, women will also be able to build networks and establish partnership relationships with people and structures that can help them grow and support their businesses.

According to officials, the project was conceptualised and designed following a pilot study conducted by AfDB, which identified challenges impeding women from growing their businesses.

Mrs Bio was speaking at the launch of the Sierra Leone Country Team of the 50MAWS.

It comes at the end of a two-day stakeholders’ engagement on Thursday.

The Sierra Leonean First Lady, who presided over the launching, said the initiative would bring more respect to women and give them a voice in the development process.

“I want to encourage every Sierra Leonean woman who is already [an] entrepreneur, who wants to be one and has vision, but do not know where to start,” Mrs Bio said in a statement on Friday.

She added: “This is an opportunity for you to be part of a network that is beyond the borders of this country. This is an opportunity for you people to market your products beyond Sierra Leone. This is an opportunity Ecowas is brining for us women in Sierra Leone.”

Sierra Leone becomes the tenth country to launch and officially commit to the implementation of the initiative.

Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Benin and Cape Verde have all already launched it.

Sierra Leone is also billed to host a continental launch of the initiative.

ECOWAS Vice-President, Sierra Leonean Mrs Finda Koroma, represented the regional bloc at the event in Freetown.

She said the project is in line with the ECOWAS Gender Program that is fully aligned with the ECOWAS Gender Policy adopted in 2004.

“This project if successful will take many women out of poverty and it will bring more respect to the women,” she said.

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