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Sierra Leone News: ECOWAS to support 200 women entrepreneurs

ECOWAs has provided support to the government which is expected to benefit 200 women through the Business Incubation for African Women Entrepreneurs (BIAWE) project. The project is expected to be piloted in Bo to help improve on their businesses and if it succeeds it will be replicated elsewhere. This is according to Harry Mahoi, senior Social Services Officer-Gender Policy at the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children Affairs (MSWGCA) during the national sensitisation campaign on Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) activities in Sierra Leone in the Southern Region. The Government of Sierra Leone through its Ministry of Planning and Economic Development concluded this southern regional tour in Pujehun and Bo district last week where several issues were discussed. Explaining ECOWAS’s intervention on gender and women empowerment series project support, Mahoi said that there is this ECOWAS Scholarship of Excellence for Girls and several pupils and students have benefitted from it as per excellence in academia which is a prerequisite for getting it. He said that ECOWAS decided to take up this challenge because within its member states, cultures do prevent girls from accessing education over boys, noting that 30 to 50 girls have benefited and are expected to submit their progress report from their various institutions. Funding is also available for fistula surgical operation for 30 women who are suffering from the said health issue and the ministry is in the process of identifying such patients nationwide. Sahr F. Mondeh from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation spoke about the support the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) is giving to the country. This agency he says helps build the capacity of doctors, nurses, midwives and also fund some projects like reproductive and child health and the reduction of teenage pregnancy. The National Revenue Authority (NRA) Customs Anti-Smuggling supervisor, Paul Juana Kamara explained the benefits of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and the Common External Tariff (CET) primarily to encourage countries to share market, common trade and working towards a single customs. He disclosed that the recent debate amongst states is with the issue of transit which will support landlocked countries like Burkina Faso and Mali, whose goods come through Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast or Benin and that will be addressed through the ALISA program with discussions going on in Togo, ECOWAS is ready to support it. Yusuf Benga Sama from the Planning Ministry talked about the infrastructural support by ECOWAS. He said that they are not only working within West Africa but partner with other regional bodies like the European Union (EU). The road from Bo to Bandajuma is under the Regional Indicative Fund with funds from the EU and that was negotiated by ECOWAS for the West African region and that is Sierra Leone’s own package, which will see the construction of three important bridges like the Moa, Sewa and Wanjei. They have also helped the government with the fibre optic cable, in 2013 the ECOWAS Commission negotiated a financial arrangement for Sierra Leone, Guinea and Mali to boost energy coupled with 2011, signed agreement with EXIM Bank in India for the solar project in Sierra Leone. There is also the GIABA, the intergovernmental group against money laundering which seeks to rid the region of illegal funds that come into the states and it was based on this the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) was created in Sierra Leone to effectively monitor money trails that is aimed at supporting terrorism and arms trade. In one of the gatherings Paramount Chief Lahai A.K. Sowa II of Sowa Chiefdom in Pujehun District appreciated the team’s effort and requested that the engagement is sustained on a more regular basis. He promised to disseminate the information gathered to his other section chiefs who were not part of the dialogue. The team also spoke to pupils at the Ahmadiyya Secondary School, Bandajuma Town on the ECOWAS Volunteer teaching programs.

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Monday April 15, 2019.

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