June 6, 2016 By Alusine Sesay
The Sierra Leone Bottling Company (SLBC) has collaborated with UN Women to empower over 200 women entrepreneurs in Freetown, Makeni and Kenema through the company’s flagship program called 5By20.
5By20 which was launched in 2010 by the Chief Executive Officer of Coca-Cola ,Muktar Kent ,is the company’s commitment to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across their value chain by 2020.
Speaking on Friday at the launch of the program, Country Manager of SLBC, Isreal Okujagu said the company was making history to empower women in Sierra Leone.
The initiative he said offered women access to business skills training courses, financial services and connections with peers or mentors, adding that they would directly empower 200 women by giving them start-up kits of mini table set after going through training.
He said the program would initially focus on women in Freetown, Makeni and Kenema with further expansion into other areas of the country by 2017, adding that the company was responding to UN Women’s strategic plan to promote the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs.
The program ,he said was a complement to UN Women’s strategic focus aimed at seeing women lead and participate in decision–making at all levels, economically empowered and benefit from all development among a host of others.
United Nations Resident Coordinator to Sierra Leone,Sunil Siagal said there are more women entrepreneurs in Africa than men ,but noted that they were far more vulnerable to poverty than men.
He said women can do better should they be given the needed opportunity and that the program was a complementary support which UN provides to assist the government achieve its objective of empowering women.
Coca-Cola Franchise Manager ,Equitorial Africa Limited,Rodrgue Billa said the program was being implemented through the Coca-Cola foundation which believed in women empowerment and the overall wellbeing of people, and that “ We believe that we have a sustainable business, when the community in which we operate, is healthy and viable.
He said the partnership between SLBC and UN Women was very much important because both believed in women empowerment.
Delivering the keynote address, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Ibrahim Mansaray said SLBC has always been committed to the development and support of communities either through direct retails sales strategies of through strategic supports of water and sanitation enhancement facilities in selected communities.
He said the company has made significant contributions in the zone of 41 billion Leones to the revenue of the country, thus praising the launch of the 5By20 program as laudable.
Deputy Minister of Social Welfare ,Gender and Children’s Affairs,Rugiatu Neneh Turay said the agenda for prosperity has a standalone pillar for women empowerment, noting that women have limited access to opportunities and that more attention should be paid to them.
She said women form bulk of the country’s population and that empowering them would help reduce poverty, thus commending SLBC for taking such step.