Covid-19 did not veer off our course
Voices from UNDP’s Borderland Support: Covid-19 did not Veer off our Course to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment
October 17, 2022
“We were surprised to know that women groups of twenty-five members in borderlands could save up to Four Thousand United State Dollars ($ 4,000) a year after UNDP had supported trainings and establishment of all-women Village Savings and Loan Associations,” says Madam Bintu Swaray, Secretary of Women of Mano River Union (MRU) Organisation.
Bintu Swaray is from Pujehun District and part of a cohort of frontline businesswomen in border communities (Sulima, Jendema, and Kambia Town) who revived her business from the shocks of Covid-19 after she had received seed grant of US$150 from UNDP- through implementing partner SEND Sierra Leone, to build resilience among businesswomen even in the wake of the pandemic.
The wake of the pandemic disrupted local businesses in border communities who relied so much on cross border trade, especially women traders who are largely the main source of income for their families and significantly contribute to socio-economic growth of borderlands.
Despite numerous challenges faced by informal cross border traders resulting from covid-19, UNDP’s Quick Impact Border Initiative has contributed to reviving businesses of 448 women traders and strengthening their social safety nets and security in twenty-one border communities from seven chiefdoms in Pujehun and Kambia districts.
Through UNDP’s support, VSLA schemes are also established as a structured system of saving, borrowing, and lending of money generated from individual contributions; nurturing a more sustainable practice that assures access to finance among businesswomen who couldn’t provide collaterals to secure loans from banks and other financial institutions.
“I fled to neighbouring Guinea for fear of being arrested by the Sierra Leone Police because I could no longer pay a microcredit after my business was seriously impacted by and went spiral in the wake of Covid-19,”says Mabinty Yilla form Kambia District.
“I fled to neighbouring Guinea for fear of being arrested by the Sierra Leone Police because I could no longer pay a microcredit after my business was seriously impacted by and went spiral in the wake of Covid-19,” says Mabinty Yilla form Kambia District.
The Covid-19 pandemic did not leave any stone unturned! And yes, we've veered off course for the #GlobalGoals, but it's not too late, and where we go from here is up to us. Our work in borderland communities have also shown that every action, small or big, matters.
"In 2021, we had zero cases of sexual violence reported to the police but as of today, over 20 cases have been reported to the Jendema Police Division and we have been able to have a twenty- year conviction of a sexual penetration case. This won't have been possible without outreach support from UNDP Sierra Leone," says Deputy Inspector Koroma and Line Manager, Family Support Unit in Jendema.
Consultations with borderland communities indicated that Covid-19 regulations and mechanisms set out by the Government to curtail the crisis resulted to the loss of Jobs, gender-based violence and food. Studies conducted by the Emergency Food Monitoring Report by WFP and FAO indicated 15% rise in food insecurity from January 2020 to June 2020, higher unemployment rate and increased gender-based violence cases reported to the Family Support Unit. Thanks to funding at UNDP Africa Borderland Centre, these effects were mitigated by our Quick Impact Project interventions in borderlands .
“It is quiet refreshing to see that UNDP’s investment has contributed to increased savings and a 20-year conviction of sexual penetration in Pujehun District after UNDP’s engagements with the borderland communities,” UNDP Gender Specialist and Focal Person for Borderland Programme, Kadiatu Bachalle Taylor concluded.
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