The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women partnered with the African Foundation for Development – Sierra Leone (AFFORD-SL) in 2012 to establish the country’s first national network of women entrepreneurs. The Organisation of Women’s Networks for Entrepreneurs (OWNERS) provides vital support for women in business in Sierra Leone. Thanks to the generous support of the Pratt Foundation, GE and the COMO Foundation, this pioneering project provided women entrepreneurs with training in key business skills, peer support and access to markets, networks and capital. In the three years following its launch in 2012, the network has expanded from 68 to almost 700 members.
We worked closely with AFFORD-SL to support women entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone to strengthen their businesses in the aftermath of the Ebola epidemic. The outbreak of the disease exacerbated many of the difficulties that women have traditionally faced in growing their businesses. Whilst the percentage of women in the labour force stands at a modest 51% in Freetown, 70% of the country’s total population operate in the informal sector as petty traders, the majority of whom are women. Many female entrepreneurs struggle to secure access to the training, networks and capital they need to scale up their micro-enterprises.
Click here to read more about how we supported women in Sierra Leone to cope with the challenges they faced during the Ebola outbreak.
Throughout the project we worked to further strengthen the Organisation of Women’s Networks for Entrepreneurs to promote its long-term sustainability. We also provided critical business support to network members through financial literacy training, mentoring and linkage to financial services.
We recently co-produced research on the barriers faced by women in accessing capital in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation and AFFORD-SL. You can read our National Study on Women’s Access to Financing in Sierra Leone by clicking on the link below. This research has helped us determine how we can connect more women entrepreneurs to formal lending institutions so they can invest in and grow their businesses.
‘I am really looking forward to developing my marketing and branding skills as well as forming new linkages with possible clients, suppliers and partners. I hope to use these new network connections to attract more clients and expand my guesthouse.’
– Louisa Musa, guesthouse owner
The African Foundation for Development in Sierra Leone (AFFORD-SL) seeks to offer practical support to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME). The organisation relies on support from the African Diaspora who partner with Sierra Leoneans on the ground to provide investment and input on business training through the deployment of business coaches and advisors. Businesses in Sierra Leone are able to receive direct technical support, coaching and mentoring. Because enterprise development is a viable option for self-employment and job creation, AFFORD-SL advocates, lobbies and facilitates a conducive enterprise environment in Sierra Leone.
Since 2003, the COMO Foundation has supported non-profit organisations working to improve the lives of women and girls. To date, grants from the foundation to charities and social enterprises have enabled education, skill development and income generation projects. Working directly with implementing partners, the Foundation funds organisations working to increase access to knowledge, encourage income generation and social enterprise, and address the “bottom of pyramid penalty”, in which underserved communities tend to pay more for basic goods and services.
GE provides grants and invests in initiatives that work to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems. In coordination with partners, GE supports education, developing health globally, the environment, public policy, human rights, disaster relief and community success around the globe.
The Pratt Foundation was established in 1978 by Richard and Jeanne Pratt with the shared vision of supporting charitable enterprises and adding value to philanthropy. The Foundation’s mission statement is: “To enrich the lives of our communities”. This statement highlights the diversity and pluralism of the communities which The Pratt Foundation serves in Australia, Israel, Asia, and Europe, and its commitment to add value to them. As Heloise Waislitz, the Chair of The Pratt Foundation says, “Involvement in philanthropy brings great responsibilities. But it is also a great privilege”.