Monrovia — President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday received a delegation from the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund (SMWF), shortly before five of its members departed the country for a study tour in Malawi and Ghana.
The Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund (SMWF), in collaboration with the Joyce Banda Foundation in Malawi and the African Women’s Development Fund in Ghana, is undertaking a 17-day, three-country study tour, titled “Advancing Economic Empowerment of Women: Cross-learning and Exchange Program of Market Women from Liberia, Ghana and Malawi.” The program is being sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The women are traveling to Malawi for four days to meet with the Joyce Banda Foundation, and then to Ghana for another four days to meet with the AWDF. They will return to Liberia, along with the participants from Malawi and Ghana, for a four-day wrap-up that will include a December 4th conference with major stakeholders.
The study tour, according to an Executive Mansion release, will raise awareness, expose the women to activism, and connect market women with other women in the hope of curbing the marginalization of this important group of women in their respective economies. The tour will also provide market women an opportunity to exchange experiences and tell their story of how investment in their interest has changed their lives, not only giving them a decent workplace, but also a voice in policy making.
At a meeting with the delegation, President Sirleaf expressed her pleasure that the visit was taking place. She told the women that they can share with their counterparts some of the things they do in Liberia that others want to replicate – for instance, having a major coordinating office that’s helping to mobilize resources and support the markets. She was sure that their counterparts from Malawi and Ghana have innovations from which Liberian market women can also benefit. She urged the women to “do your country well; make us all proud of you in everything you do there; and when you come back, we’ll be here waiting to receive you.”
Madam Olivia Shannon, Chair of the Board of the Fund, told the President that the women were all stalwarts, and would do their best. With her was the new Executive Director of the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund, Mrs. Margretta Sawo Smith-General.
The team includes four market women from the Liberian Marketing Association (LMA): Mrs. Famata Davies, from the Nancy B. Doe-Jorkpen Town Market; Mrs. Christiana Miller, from the Paynesville City Market; Mrs. Rosetta Addison, from the Totota Market; and Mrs. Rose Biah from the Saclepea Market. Coordinating the tour is Ms. Daiba Tozay, who is also completing her doctorate on the “Impact of war on Liberian women.” Also present at the meeting was Mr. T. Fred Kla-Williams, the Study Tour Assistant.
The participants were elected from their various markets with the assistance of Mrs. Lusu Sloan, President of the LMA, who has been a strong supporter of the study tour and has encouraged the participants to "go out and make the market women of Liberia proud!"
The Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund was established in late 2007 to empower market women in post-conflict Liberia by constructing and rehabilitating markets and by providing women marketers with market infrastructure and a number of skills training, financial tools and other services. The Fund was established by an international group of women, including, expatriate Liberians and others, most of whom have had extensive experience in development cooperation and in the promotion of women’s rights at both field and policy levels. In just three years, the SMWF has built or renovated 13 markets and is working on more for a total of 50.