Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking last on Human Development Indicators. Significant divides exist between rural and urban areas and men and women. Despite important progress, women remain disproportionately affected by poverty in all its dimensions, and gender-based violence remains a serious problem.
For the members of the Virtuous Women Co-operative, the steady hum of more than thirty sewing machines means business is good. It’s a far cry from living hand to mouth, with no prospects of a job, in Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world, where unemployment rates are sky high. During five years, Oxfam and The Circle helped two groups of women who have been building businesses from the bottom up.
With funding from The Circle, Oxfam helped the women from the Virtuous Co-operative build their own tailoring centre in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. With new sewing and weaving machines, plus training in marketing and business development, the co-op is going from strength to strength and doubled its membership to 200 women during the time the project was running.
Across the country, another women’s co-op has been growing bigger and better. The Gbalin Co-operative has helped more than fifty women to become successful farmers and has established a gender office to ensure that all members are treated fairly. With Oxfam’s support, the women received seeds, fertilizer, protective clothing and farming tools. They also received agricultural and business training so they can negotiate better prices and contracts. Thanks to the co-op’s support and their increased income, many of these women have been able to send their children to school for the first time.