The First Lady of Sierra Leone, Fatima Bio, has yesterday officially launched the "5o Million African Women Speak Platform" project at the Bintumani International Hotel in Freetown.
The project worth $13.2 million is an initiative of the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), the East African and Southern Africa Common Market (COMESA), and the Eastern African Community (EAC).
According to her, the project among others, was aimed to improve women's ability to access financial and non-financial information, to facilitate peer-to-peer learning, access financial opportunities build networks and establish partnership relationships with people and structures that can help them grow and support their businesses.
Madam Bio said ECOWAS, in accordance with its community, has always been with the country even in terms of emergency or humanitarian crisis, thus stating that the launch of the project was a development trajectory.
She said the occasion was in sharp contrast with emergency situation assistance that would lay the ground work for development partnership that will place African women entrepreneurs at the heart of the scale.
She assured ECOWAS that Sierra Leone would commit to the implementation of the initiative to facilitate the empowerment of women and girls through the creation of a virtual platform for networking and information sharing to improve their ability to access financial and non-financial information.
She called on all women in Sierra Leone to be involved in the '50 million women project' and ensured its success so that the platform of women's entrepreneur would become the reference point in Africa.
"If we have this opportunity in Sierra Leone, we believe the women in Sierra Leone will most definitely faced the opportunity and use it wisely," she said.
Vice President of ECOWAS, madam Finda Koroma, said she was equally grateful for the importance Sierra Leoneans attached to the initiative, which she said would provide significant platform for women to network with other entrepreneurs across the world.
The Vice President called on women from all walks of life to join the ECOWAS Commission in the mobilization of resources, both technical and financial that will be needed to make available the necessary data on Sierra Leone to include it in the platform in order to project the country as a place where women and girls can access the requisite information needed to create and finance their businesses.
She said the project was in line with the ECOWAS gender program that is fully aligned with the gender policy of ECOWAS that was adopted in December 2004 by head of states of government.
"This project falls within the framework of Article 15 of Chapter 5 of the Additional Act on Equal Rights for Women and Men for sustainable development in the ECOWAS sub-region in May 2015, which calls on Members States to adopt all legislative and regulatory measures to ensure women's equal access to all economic and gainful opportunities," she said.
She called on African women to make good use of the opportunity that the platform avails them and to network with women across the world in order to grow their business.
She urged the country team to coordinate the collection and transmission of all information that can help and encourage women and girls to go into business on one hand and to make the platform their main tool for networking and accessing local, national and continental funding opportunities on the other hand.
The launch of the project was followed by a workshop that attracted women groups across the country.