Project information

Start date: February 2022

End date: January 2024

Location: Hard-to-reach satellite communities around Pujehun District

The Challenge

Literacy for women in Sierra Leone is only 35%, and even lower for rural women (World Bank 2018). This has huge consequences for rural women and children, who understand nothing or little of their basic rights and do not have the confidence to improve their situation. Despite statutory laws which could protect them, many young women are not aware that such laws exist. For girls who start school, many drop out as families are unable to buy uniforms or basic materials. Opportunities are few and with COVID-19 poverty has deepened.

The COVID-19 outbreak has also increased the need for handwashing facilities, but without access to soap, rural communities do not have the means to protect themselves from the virus.

Equally devastating is that 4 million people (63%) in Sierra Leone are food insecure, meaning that they lack sufficient food to eat day to day, regularly skip meals or sacrifice other basic needs in order to eat. COVID-19 restrictions, including inter-district lockdowns, curfews, and the closure of markets, have worsened the food crisis (UN 2021). People running their own small businesses are no longer able to trade as they did previously, so it is more and more challenging for them to feed their families.

The women we will work with will be part of 48% of women in Sierra Leone who live on less than £1.40 per day. As women, they face barriers and discrimination that can prevent them from earning their own income. As women, they are also uniquely placed to be powerful changemakers. Many of these rural women are responsible for taking care of the household and providing food for their children, and when they have an income of their own, often their families see improvements in nutrition, health, and children’s access to education.

Our project

The project will empower women in Sierra Leone to make change and overcome poverty, including the most marginalised groups like young women, women with disabilities and widows. Women Changemakers will access skills and support to lead on tackling these issues in their communities. This will include provide training women on home garden vegetable growing so that additional food is available to the community, including seasonal and sustainable agriculture and setting up 7 community seed banks. Women will attend literacy and numeracy training, rights awareness, business training, and we will provide training in soap production for 50 women. These skills can also be used to generate their own income to gain financial independence and overcome poverty.

Changemakers catalyse further change. When women earn an income it improves their status within the household and community, the health and well-being of their children, and lessens their vulnerability to gender based violence. This project supports women to act as role models, passing on their entrepreneurial successes and nutritional improvements to other young women. By giving them skills to increase their food production, women are less likely to be food insecure, and better able to feed their children.

The project is in Pujehun District in 7 communities with links to communities where we have implemented other community-based projects, and has potential for expansion up to 10 communities if we are able to secure additional funding.

What we’ll achieve

  1. Provide literacy and numeracy training and basic business skills to 300 women and girls in small, isolated communities, which will support them in their ability to earn a living and manage their income.
  2. Help women to understand and claim their rights and participate in decision making in the home and in the community. This will be incorporated into the literacy training and will be based on previous success with nearby communities.
  3. Provide 285 women with the skills and knowledge to earn a living through backyard gardening, which will also improve food security for their community. With our support they will establish seed banks reaching approximately 1400 households and we will provide home gardening kits to grow nutritious vegetables and other foods. Women will learn climate-smart agricultural methods, post-harvest and food storage management skills, and how to trade safely and effectively in weekly food markets.  They will also receive information on balanced diet preparation for improved immunity. They will share their knowledge and train others in their communities.
  4. Provide soap making training to 50 women who can earn a living by selling soap in their community, while improving sanitation and hygiene in their communities. To create a local supply of soap whilst engaging young women in skills training, we will work with 5 experienced soapmaking artisans to provide training placements for young women to learn how to make soap for different local markets.