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Business Development Services Initiative

The Business Development Services Initiative in Sierra Leone aims to boost sustainable income for widows and their children through business skills and financial services support in selected communities.

Sierra Leone's economic landscape is predominantly informal, with micro-enterprises spearheaded largely by women. Yet, despite women constituting more than half of the population, they face significant barriers in accessing finance, skills training, and support services necessary for business development. The private sector, though increasingly involved, offers limited opportunities for formal employment, especially to rural women. Consequently, a vast majority of women entrepreneurs remain confined within the bounds of micro-enterprises, such as small-scale farming and trading.

The disparity is striking, with only 17% of women engaged in the formal private sector and an overwhelming majority of the rural population dependent on agriculture. Financial illiteracy, inadequate business management skills, and gender-biased institutional policies severely limit women’s opportunities for economic advancement.

To address these challenges, the JNJ Foundation is aligning its efforts with the Government to foster an environment where women entrepreneurs can thrive. The initiative targets the enhancement of business knowledge and skills for widows and their children, providing innovative financing solutions tailored to their needs. This includes support for business start-ups and expansions, as well as inputs for value addition, creating linkages to credit services for small and medium-sized enterprises led by widows. The overarching goal is to stimulate a comprehensive strategy that not only alleviates the immediate financial constraints but also ensures long-term, inclusive economic growth led by a robust Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector. Through this program, the foundation seeks to empower women with the tools and resources needed to elevate their businesses and, by extension, their communities.

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