UNDP, Liberian President join efforts to support market women

Sep 23, 2012

New York - The United Nations Development Programme and a fund that is working to boost the livelihoods of women farmers, traders and wholesalers in Liberia, have unveiled a new video documentary to inspire efforts to support similar women’s groups across the African continent.

Supported by UNDP, the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund, named after Africa’s first female president,  has a holistic approach to reconstructing or building markets by including  daycare facilities, microcredit financing and literacy and other trainings for market women so they can make enough money to support themselves and their families.

Entitled The Story of the Sirleaf Women’s Fund of Liberia, the video tells the story of market women, as they are known in Liberia, who have played a pivotal role during that country’s 14-year civil war, risking their lives to feed their families and communities. Now that peace has returned there, they continue ensuring Liberians can remain food secure.

“They provide so much, and get very little in return,” said Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. “We need to move them up, not only through market conditions but through access to literacy, credit and land, enabling them to farm so they can move up to the next layer.”

There are about 450,000 market women in Liberia, whose families often include six to eight children, many of whom have lost their fathers to war or AIDS. Street vending and petty trading is the main source of income for 38 percent of women living in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, while 30 percent there identified themselves as market women.

With support from UNDP, UN Women and Liberia’s Ministry of Gender and Development, the fund established 13 markets in rural and urban areas across Liberia and has trained 500 women how to read and write.

At the organization’s inception, UNDP financed a survey of 83 markets across the country that helped determine the needs of the markets and the market women.  Over the subsequent years, it has been helping the Fund reconstruct and build Liberia’s markets, and, most recently, develop a companion case study that is expected to inspire similar efforts across the African continent.

In addition, in a recent and historic discussion with the African Union in Addis Ababa, the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund suggested market women serve as an early warning mechanism for potential conflict in Africa.

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