Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken extra steps to empower women and promote gender equality in the West African sub-region.

The empowerment, according to a statement made available to Daily Sun, in Abuja, by the ECOWAS Commission, would happen more in rural communities of member countries, through the Business Incubator for African Women Entrepreneurs (BIAWE).

The sub-regional grouop, therefore, plans to open a business incubator centre in Tenkodogo, Burkina Faso.

The initiative, the ECOWAS Commission added, is supported by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Spanish Fund.

ECOWAS further said the move will enable 300 women from rural communities in Burkina Faso develop small and medium scaled enterprises, adding that the pilot phase will last for 15 months and is expected to cost 245,000 euros.

The ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow, at the opening of the centre in Tenkodogo, stated that the program would build the capacity of female entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector by professionalizing and modernizing their skills in processing cereals, cassava and fish.

The Commissioner disclosed that Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone had been singled out for the pilot phase of the program which is expected to be replicated in other West African Countries.

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She added that the initiative was as a result of the particularly difficult conditions women in those countries face in terms of gender equality and economic empowerment.

“Many constraints prevent these women from undertaking viable long-term economic projects. In addition to the socio-cultural constraints that hinder the initiatives of these rural women, access to local and regional markets and finance have been a great challenge to them,” Sow said.

Declaring the center open, the Burkina Faso Minister of Women Affairs, National Solidarity and the Family, Hélène Marie Laurence Ilboudo Marcha, reiterated the commitment of the government of Burkina Faso to ensure that the program receives every support it needed to be successful.

The Minister commended ECOWAS’ efforts in empowering women and promoting gender equality in the region.

A second business incubator Centre which will be opened in Sierra Leone, and is expected to train 200 women in the areas of palm processing, rice processing, poultry production, animal husbandry and vegetable production.

The BIAWE project is executed by the ECOWAS Commission, in partnership with the NEPAD and Spanish Funds.

Its aim is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, while promoting gender equality and women empowerment.