UN Women has donated US $3 million to the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund (SMWF) for the construction of eight markets in Liberia. The new venues will feature a bank, nursery school, warehouse, and adult literacy school.
The goal of SMWF is, according to its website, five-fold. The fund seeks to (1) renovate and create new markets; (2) provide clean water, sanitary facilities, electricity, and safe storage; (3) promote adult literacy and small-business trading; (4) offer women access to credit; and (5) create facilities for children of market women (e.g. pre-schools, playgrounds).
The program is targeted also to the children of market women, who often lack early childhood education, sanitary environments, and access to health care. Many of these children fail to receive immunizations and deworming.
Liberia, a country impoverished by civil war, yields nearly 65% of its GDP through agriculture. Approximately 450,000 women make their earnings through street markets, which often lack sanitary environments, clean water, and access to credit. In Monrovia, the capital of Libera, 38% of women claimed street-vending as their primary source of income, and 30% identified themselves as “market women.”
The organization’s eponymous founder, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is the first female head of state in Africa and has made noteworthy strides towards women’s rights reform. When Joyce Banda, the first female president of Malawi, took office this April, she partnered with Sirleaf to establish a new era for women, bringing hope and optimism for females throughout Africa.