Action Africa Inc. Provides Opportunities for Women in Sierra leone.

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Action Africa Workshop gives women the opportunity to design and plan their own business, and send their children to school.

Lady in Lunsar Signing her First Contract for a Business

"If I can start my own business, I can save my family from hunger and allow my children to attend primary school - I don't have a husband, I am alone and need to take care of myself. Thank you for this opportunity",

Action Africa has an active presence in Sierra Leone, a small country that sits off the West coast of Africa. It is one of the Top Ten diamond producing nations and is a major producer of gold. It is rich with titanium, bauxite and rutile and boasts the third largest natural harbor in the world. Yet, in spite of all its mineral wealth and a harbor which exports worldwide, 70% of the people live in poverty and it remains devastatingly low on the Human Development Index, ranking 180 for quality of life out of 187 countries.

For Women, life poses a particular challenge “Women in Sierra Leone suffer from low literacy, low status, sexual exploitation and harassment,“ states Nasu Fofana, the UN Population Fund program manager for gender and advocacy in Sierra Leone; he claims “Women are one of the core natural resources we have as a country, but we do not have the capacity to address issues that deal specifically with women and girls.”

The good news is things are changing, albeit slowly. Specific attention has been given to women who continue to be under represented in Politics. A new 30% mandatory quota for women has been put forward to ensure a fairer representation of women in politics and public decision making spaces, along with the creation of an autonomous “Women’s Commission” in government.

So, things appear to be looking up for women, “but things are not that easy” says Bio, a 28 year old single mother who lives with her parents. She has successfully started her own business but faced discrimination along the way. She needed her fiancé to put down collateral from his land in order for her to get a bank loan. She claims that women become dependent on men - “women only get loans with collateral from male relatives. Worse, it’s common practice to be pressured by male bank staff into sex if there isn’t a man’s backing when women apply for loans. I’m angry women can’t succeed alone”.

In 2012, Action Africa provided the funds for 50 women to start their own businesses. With initial donations totaling $1500 Action Africa helped launch a program to empower women through small business. The Action Africa Team aims to raise awareness and money to help empower women in sub-Saharan Africa to start their own small businesses within their communities. In this way, women become capable providers for their families and help strengthen communities. Hawa Korma was the first person in a line of 50 who gathered to sign up for Action Africa’s Women Enterprise Program in Lunsar, Sierra Leone in July 2012. Action Africa’s Executive Director, Susan Hoefling, was there on location to inaugurate this new phase of the program along with the local program coordinator, retired Councilman, Steven S. Bangura. For the women, this was a day to remember.

Hawa was given a start-up capital of $75, it enabled her to become a trader at the local market, selling onions, peppers, salt, and seasonal produce. She now has a reliable source of income that allows her support her family. A loan of $75 is enough to launch an above-average local business venture. In the hands of a conscientious trader, a $75 loan could help a family break out of the cycle of poverty and in a reasonable period of time, the entrepreneur can become an employer, and her children’s education can be assured.

Hawa is not working alone, Action Africa structures its program so that women work in groups. The women in the program support each other, hold group meetings, share successful practices and stories of their various businesses. It empowers women to expand their businesses and open doors to others. By providing support in this way Action Africa endeavors to enable women to break out of the cycle of poverty and dependence and become confident and successful business managers supporting both their families and the community.

Action Africa, Inc. is a volunteer run 501(c) 3 organization based in Washington DC. It was founded in 2000 to focus on the development and implementation of programs in sub-Saharan Africa. It also works on capacity building efforts to assist newly arriving African immigrants for faster integration and assimilation into American life, and to further assist their respective villages in Sub Saharan Africa.

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Susan Hoefling
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