UNOPS, UN women empower women in business, sustainable procurement

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Organisers and participants of the UNOPS, UN Women event at Siera Palms

By Alhaji Haruna Sani

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and UN Women, in collaboration, organized the ‘Women’s Opportunity Forum’ at Sierra Palms Resort on February 15th, aiming to empower Sierra Leonean women in business with the skills necessary to bid for both public and private tenders.

The two-day event, which also seeks to raise awareness on sustainable procurement, highlights opportunities available with the Government and UN agencies.

Sofia Goinhas, UNOPS Country Manager, emphasized the significance of such initiatives. She recalled last year’s UP Forum, where local suppliers, including women business owners, participated in training, gaining insights into business opportunities within UNOPS and the broader United Nations System.

Goinhas stressed the importance of empowering women, stating that it not only creates social and economic value but is also crucial for advancing Sustainable Development Goals 5, 8, and 10.

Goinhas highlighted the stark disparity, noting that while women own one-third of businesses globally, they make up only 1% of the global procurement of large operations.

She underlined the challenges women entrepreneurs face in accessing financial services and states that UNOPS believes that procurement is pivotal not only for economic empowerment but also for promoting equality and inclusivity.

Goinhas emphasized the untapped potential in using public procurement strategically, promoting sustainable and resilient models to strengthen supply chains, enhance transparency, and combat corruption.

She said Gender Responsive Procurement (GRP) is considered by UNOPS as a tool to achieve socioeconomic objectives, taking into account gender power relations in the value chain when selecting services, goods, or works.

Goinhas concluded by sharing data, indicating that over 1700 women-owned businesses participated in tender processes, with an estimated $40 million worth of contracts awarded to women-owned businesses through online tenders.

In her keynote address, Fatmata Kargbo, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industries, emphasized the relevance of paying taxes, highlighting the Trade Ministry’s open-door policy for women, particularly in empowerment, capacity building, and loans. Kargbo expressed gratitude to UNOPS and UN Women, acknowledging the numerous opportunities created for women by the Trade Ministry and the government of President Bio.

Baindu Massaquoi, UN Women Acting OIC in Sierra Leone, expressed UN Women’s commitment to collaborating with women-led businesses to leverage collective strength. She highlighted the multi-faceted partnerships integrated into public affairs, financial workings, and communication strategy, valuing their partnership with UNOPS.

Massaquoi detailed UN Women’s work in promoting gender equality and empowerment, expressing optimism about the agenda for the two-day event.

Fodie Konneh, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA), stressed the event’s importance, considering it more than just a workshop but a learning platform. Recognizing the challenges women face in the business environment, Konneh assured that the forum is designed to address those challenges. He pledged to address questions and encouraged active participation, sharing insights into the strides the government is making to promote women’s empowerment.

Jeneba Kpaka Bangura, Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), addressed the challenges women face in taxation, encouraging them to pay taxes. She spoke on women’s equality and support, noting the shared stories among women.

The event concluded with a panel discussion set to continue today, providing a platform for further discussion on empowering Sierra Leonean women in business and promoting sustainable procurement practices.

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