Joint UN Project Provides Employment Opportunities for Women and Youth in Kono District: Strengthening Local Economic Development

June 6, 2022

Photo showing Mariama Brima, who is excited to be part of the cooperative union in Gbense Chiefdom, Kono District. Photo Credit: UNDP/Mohamed Kanu

35-year Mariama Brima was born and grew up with a physical disability. For over 20 years, she suffered lower self-esteem while experiencing life as a street beggar.

“Sometimes I was found in the market asking people for alms. The act of street begging came with many phycological challenges, yet my livelihood was defined by beggary. And being a mother of three boys and two girls, my children also suffered their share for being raised by a beggar,” she narrated.

Courtesy of the Joint UNDP/FAO Human Security Project, Mariama is now part of a 65-man cooperative in Gbense Chiefdom and is happy to be among the first group of 15 physically challenged persons who have received training on entrepreneurship and a revolving grant of $800 USD from her cooperative through our implementing partner, SEND Sierra Leone.

Several months after she had received her loan from the cooperative, and when asked about her involvement in the Joint Human Security Project, Mariama, with a gleam of smile, said her livelihood is no longer determined by street begging.

With her grants of $ 300 USD from UNDP, Mariama is now a petty trader who sells assorted items such as palm oil, rice, pepper, and charcoal to her neighborhood - restoring her self-esteem by converting her dwelling into a single bedroom and a business centre.  Her new business goal is to expand her business to the commercial center of Koidu City.

Sahr Brima is a motorcycle mechanic in Manjama, one of the hundreds of young people and part of a 10-member cooperative in Soa Chiefdom who also received support under the Joint Human Security Project. Like Mariama Brima in Gbense Chiefdom, Sarh Brima also received training on entrepreneurship and a revolving grant to expand his business and train other youth, developing a viable ecosystem of young people in a chiefdom once known for civil conflicts and social unrest.

Photo showing Sahr Brima with a ray of smile in his mechanic shop in Manjama, displaying some of his newly purchased equipment. Photo Credit: UNDP/Mohamed Kanu

A few months later, Sahr is now repaying his second loan of $300 to the cooperative after initially accessing his first grant of $ 350 and repaying with 10% interest in six months.

Today Brima is a trainer to four other young people who aspire to earn marketable skills and create jobs for themselves. He has also expanded and equipped his shop with needed tools to provide customers with regular maintenance and repair services.

Mariama and Sahr are also upbeat to be among 900 Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) and cooperative members in Soa, Gbense, and Kamara Chiefdoms trained on the establishment of VSLA groups and alternative livelihood options, including relevant techniques needed to provide adequate and continuous leadership over a community loan scheme.

Between November 2021 and May 2022, all 30 VSLA groups in the three chiefdoms have generated $ 15,543 United States Dollars as weekly savings and $12,345 United States Dollars as a social fund. Meanwhile, a total interest of $ 4,444 United States Dollars has also been generated from the revolving grants from all three cooperatives.

In 2020, UNDP and UNFAO in Sierra Leone were awarded funds by the United Nations Human Security Trust to strengthen the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in three remote and conflict-prone chiefdoms of Soa, Gbense & Kamara in Kono District. The Human Security Approach is used to address multi-faced, multidimensional development challenges and vulnerabilities to improve human wellbeing across various sectors in the target communities.

Through our implementing partner, SEND Sierra Leone established thirty VSLA groups and three cooperatives, one cooperative per chiefdom- each with twelve skilled groups, all efforts to promote employment opportunities for women and youth in Kono District, strengthening human security for local economic development.