Sierra Leone: Tourism Ministry certifies 800 Women Entrepreneurs on Handicraft Skills

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The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs through Madam Yokie with support from the World Bank Sierra Leone Economic Diversification Project (SLEDP) has certified 800 women entrepreneurs on capacity building skills and handicraft. The graduation ceremony was held at City Hall in Freetown.

In his opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary who also doubles as the Chairman of the occasion, Edward Kwame Yankson recognized the incredible achievement of 800 remarkable and talented women who have embarked on a journey of skills personal empowerment to face the competitive world. He said that their graduation was the beginning of a new chapter filled with endless possibilities.

Articulating the background of the training that led to the graduation of the 800 women, the Director of Tourism, Mohamed Jalloh noted that tourism is considered one of the key economic sectors with the potential to contribute to gender equality and the empowerment of women. He Explained that Sierra Leone and Ghana were piloted in a woman in tourism survey between February-April 2019 with a total of 500 tourism businesses and firms interviewed, 50% of which were women owned, but male owned businesses were five times profitable and twelve times more profitable than women businesses in Sierra Leone. Additionally, it was also found that male businesses are eight times more likely to get public support, training or grant and twice likely to use digital technology, a statistic he said prompted the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs to intensify its effort in promoting women in tourism.

In helping in that direction, he said the World Bank through the Sierra Leone Economic Diversification Project (SLEDP) supported Sierra Leone’s participation at the first congress of women in Tourism in Accra followed by the women tourism conference in Sierra Leone. He mentioned that with support from UNDP they have trained over 2000 women across the country on entrenuership and skills development. To reduce the impact of the COVID-19 on women entreprenuers, the Ministry through Azelia with support from SLEDP trained the first phase of 100 women entreprenuers, he continued that the second phase for which they were gathered targeted 400 artisan and craft women even though 800 ended up receiving the training. She thanked Madam Yokie for successfully conducting the training and SLEDP for the support.

The Coordinator for the World Bank SLEDP Project, Mary Jalloh congratulated the women for completing the training saying that SLEDP is focused on economic diversification as well as positioning the tourism sector as a transformative sector with the ability to touch lives. She commended Madam Yokie for a job well done as she was contracted to train 400 but trained 800. She said the reason for these interventions were that they wanted the women to have products at the different touristic sites when tourist come and also to make a livelihood out of it.

In her remarks, the Lead Trainer, Madam Yokie expressed gratitude to the Ministry and SLEDP for the opportunity and support, while saying that she insisted to train women to cushion the gender gap in Sierra Leone. she commended the women for their commitments, saying that many have started selling their products to reputable individuals and institutions in and out of Sierra Leone. She called on Ministry of Basic Education for Sierra Leone gara to be the official school uniform for school going kids.

In her keynote address, Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Mrs. Nabeela Farida Tunis said they were gathered to celebrate a wonderful crop of women who have been trained, guided and taught by Madam Yokie. She maintained that the training will transition the women into a much more productive and rewarding space for which she on behalf of President Bio and the people of Sierra Leone congratulated them for the dedication they demonstrated right through the journey. She mentioned that the Ministry recognized their contribution to the sector over the years and that their artistry, creativity and unwavering commitment to their craft will not only enrich their communities but also the economic development and sustainability of the sector.

She thanked the World Bank, SLEDP for the support saying that it was in response to several legislature and policy documents by the government. She continued that the focus of the just concluded training was to improve on the tourism value chain for growth oriented craft women, a reason she was convinced that the 800 women now have the capacity to improve, expand and diversify the quality of their product to meet market demands. She explained that the One Year Tourism for All Campaign aimed at fostering economic growth by promoting local businesses, create job opportunities and preserve cultural heritage. She called on them to be part of the October, Women in Tourism month as they looked forward to building on the gains registered so far.

Representative for the World Bank Country Director, other Ministers of government, the General Manager, National Tourist Board, the Administrative Head of Monument and Relics Commission, representatives from the diplomatic community and the private sector were all in attendance.

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