Liberia’s Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) and the World Bank have signed financing agreements for two projects totalling US $44.6 million.
The first project is the Liberia Women’s Empowerment Project (LWEP) in the amount of US $44.6 million, of which US$17.8 million is an International Development Association (IDA) grant and US$26.8 million is an IDA credit.
The second project is the additional financing for the COVID-19 emergency response project in the amount of US $9 million, of which the US$6.2 million is an IDA grant and the US$2.8 million is an IDA credit.
“I will always say that and I think this is the most transformative cooperation and coordination that we have had in the history of our relationship with the World Bank in Liberia, especially with what we have seen in the last three years,” the Minister of Finance, Samuel Tweah, said.
“The best way to reduce poverty in any country is to focus on women’s empowerment and, by doing “so, the government or country will achieve its potential in poverty reduction.”
He added that the project is not about building roads but hugely investing in human capital in various ways, including access to finance for women and vulnerable groups within the informal economy of Liberia, which is very important.
“[This project] will help our women a lot and I hope that it will be sustained and should deliver the results. This is one project that I am going to be focusing on, next to education, health, and other sectors,” Tweah stated.
Both projects’ primary goals are to provide grants to women and girls to start or expand women-led businesses across various sectors, as well as support them with training and mentoring.
It also supports positive changes in social norms, behaviour, and attitudes that create a conducive and safe social environment for women and girls and empower them to make individual and collective life-changing decisions, including access to economic opportunities, education, and health services.
Earlier, Khwima Nthara, World Bank Country Manager in Liberia, disclosed that the project seeks to support one of the key priorities in the government’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD)—empowering women and girls.
According to him, the financing agreements will address, in a comprehensive way, the various key constraints and barriers that women and girls in Liberia face in realizing their full potential. He recalled that women in Liberia have not shared equally in the dividends of peace since the end of the civil conflict.
Nthara maintained that large numbers of women have been excluded from the country’s economic development by persistently high gender disparities.
“Ranked 156th out of 162 countries on the 2019 Gender Inequality Index, Liberian women and girls are disadvantaged in practically all spheres of society, and throughout their lives,” Nthara said. “Women have fewer, less stable, and less lucrative job opportunities and fewer choices.”
Within this context, he said, social norms are a significant barrier to women’s empowerment, limiting women’s and girls’ ability to pursue economic opportunities and access quality social and livelihood services.
“Studies have shown that nearly half (45.5 per cent) of Liberian women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence from a husband or partner within the past 12 months. The second additional financing for the COVID-19 emergency response project seeks to consolidate the gains that Liberia has made in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This second additional financing, whose financing agreement we are signing today, in the amount of US $9 million, was approved on June 30th. Therefore, under the COVID-19 Emergency Response Project, a total of US $24.5 million has been extended to Liberia.”
Nthara indicated that in addition, “we had re-purposed the US $9.9 million under the Regional Disease Surveillance Project, bringing the total financing package for the health response under COVID-19 to US$34 million.”
“Having signed these financing agreements, we must now focus on implementation. As always, you can count on our continued support,” he concluded.