Economic empowerment is a huge issue for our women. The lack of enough money to buy food leads to finding income through means that devalue the women and reduce their dignity and purpose. Begging and prostitution may feed the children, but they exact a significant toll in the long run. Insufficient income also means that mothers and children are undernourished, leading to high infant mortality rates and maternal and child morbidity. Children cannot attend school (which is not free in Sierra Leone, though there is no tuition required for elementary education), perpetuating the cycle of poverty and ill health.
Because this is such a big need, equipping and empowering these women to be able to provide for themselves and their children in dignified and safe ways is woven throughout the ministry. Our 8-month long CHE training incorporates business skills and character lessons that will enable women to succeed in micro-enterprise.
Skills training classes, led by volunteers from the US or skilled craftsmen and women in Sierra Leone equip the women with knowledge of new skills and products that can be used to generate income. Business skills training, marketing assistance and consulting is given to small business owners to help them grow their businesses and ensure sustainability and growth.
Besides the local market outlets, crafts and products made by the women are purchased through our Fair Trade program and sold in the United States.
In 2011, Women of Hope International staff facilitated the development of the women’s fair trade cooperative comprised only of women with disabilities. Today over 20 women have organized themselves in separate handicraft guilds where they work in partnership to produce, promote and sell hand-made products. Women of Hope International staff work closely with the team of artisans to generate new ideas, resource materials, add value to existing products, promote quality control and expand market opportunities in West Africa and the U.S.
Women of Hope International staff work to identify and develop the unique skills and strengths within each woman while fostering new abilities through skills training classes as well. If you have an idea for a new product or think you might want to help teach a new skill to women involved in the Fair Trade Initiative, you may want to check out the short-term team page for the next skills training team trip to Sierra Leone. You could help strengthen economic opportunity for women with disabilities in West Africa.
Where does my money go?
All products sold through the Women of Hope International Fair Trade Initiative are individually assessed by staff, and each artisan is paid according to Sierra Leonean fair market value. Women of Hope International staff work directly with the women’s cooperative comprised of all women with disabilities to regulate prices for each item and to ensure each woman makes at least 25-50% profit per product. Women of Hope International purchases all fair trade items up front and then sells them in the U.S to generate income for the ministry. All Fair Trade Initiative revenue is put back into wholistic development programming for women with disabilities in West Africa. When you purchase an item from the Women of Hope International Fair Trade Initiative, you are contributing to the financial stability of women with disabilities in Sierra Leone, while promoting dignity and health.