Sierra Leone Women Entrepreneurs
Our work establishing Sierra Leone's first national network of women entrepreneurs took place in 2012.
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.
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.
The Foundation additionally 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.