#TheEUandMeRoadShow was a week-long opportunity for the whole country to discover more about EU supported projects in Sierra Leone, and learn how the EU’s values and principles align with the Government of Sierra Leone’s vision for the country’s development.
Out of the many projects supported by the EU, the handful that were visited by #TheEUandMeRoadShow team encompassed a wide range of outcomes including – women’s empowerment, increased agricultural diversification, better road transport infrastructure, improved technical vocational skills and education, sustainable livelihoods, and more effective and accessible health facilities.
The functioning of the EU is founded on strong values and principles for representative democracy and all EU citizens have the right to stand for election and to vote.
Here in Sierra Leone, an EU-Trocaire project working with local implementing partner – Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR) in Bombali, Port Loko and Kambia Districts, to increase the influence of rural women in local governance and agricultural development, has been instrumental in supporting women become influential local leaders and successfully advocate for their rights.
#TheEUandMeRoadShow found out about Aminata Kamara, who stood for election as the deputy head of Konta Bana community two years earlier. In a fiercely contested battle against a popular youth candidate, she triumphed with the support of the EU-Trocaire project, in a community which had never before even contemplated a woman as a leader. As the village’s first deputy headwoman, Aminata credits the EU-Trocaire project for giving her an insight into her leadership potential.
Aminata now plays an important role within the community. She adjudicates disputes, contributes to the planning and implementation of village development and has been instrumental in a saving scheme that allows villagers to borrow money for bigger investments such as school fees. Her success represents ground-breaking change in her community and she is a strong role model for other women and girls with leadership aspirations.
The principle of equality between women and men underpins all European policies. Just a short drive outside Port Loko in Robaka community #TheEUandMeRoadShow met two women, whose lives had been changed when the EU-Trocaire project provided them with information and advice, as well as a supportive structure to advocate for the equal land rights, to which they were entitled under Sierra Leonean law.
Isatu Fofanah, one of the women, had been living in a derelict garage with her invalid husband, children and grandchildren, when she successfully pursued her right to a share of family land. She has now built her own home, and says that the project helped her convince her brothers that “men and women are equal.”
The EU believes that human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected, protected and constitutes the real basis of fundamental human rights.
On an extensive cashew farm, intercropped with cassava, sweet potatoes and groundnuts, also in the Port Loko area, members of the Amputee and War Wounded Association are proud to show off the fruits of their labour. They say that “disability is not inability” and their increasingly successful agricultural enterprise has proved an inspiration to the local community.
The EU-Solidaridad project, which is aimed at developing a vibrant, competitive and profitable sierra Leonean cocoa, coffee and cashew economy driven by private supply chain actors, has changed the course of the members of the Amputee and War Wounded Association, taking them off the streets and providing a sustainable livelihood opportunity. Mohamed Tarawally, President of the Association says that previously many of their members survived by begging, which “dehumanised them,” and that through the project they can now “feed and provide for their families.”
Freedom of movement, which gives citizens the right to move, work and reside freely within the EU, is one of the EU’s fundamental freedoms and is supported by good transport connectivity. For Sierra Leoneans, movement between communities, districts and countries
is complicated by the poor condition of the roads network. This restricts economic activity, choice of schools and access to health facilities.
The EU funded Bandajuma – Liberia Border Road and Bridges project, which is almost complete, has considerably enhanced the freedom of movement and choice for surrounding communities and has reduced the travel time between Bo and Liberia from two days to two hours. The project which consists of almost 100km of two-lane all-weather paved road between Bandajuma (near Waanje River) to the border crossing with Liberia also includes the construction of three major bridges, over the Sewa, Moa and Waanje Rivers.
It is expected to boost West African activities, reintegration and trade between Sierra Leone and Liberia, increasing sub-regional economic activity and connectivity in West Africa, as well as reducing travel time and accidents.
On the final day of #TheEUandMeRoadShow, EU Ambassador Tom Vens – accompanied by Irish Ambassador Lesley Ní Bhriain, German Ambassador Horst Gruner and French Chargé d’Affaires Romain Vuillaume – brought Europe Week Sierra Leone 2021 to two schools in the Western Area: Peninsula Secondary School in Waterloo and Methodist Girls High School.
In 2019, the Peninsula School’s work to educate its pupils about the environment helped them win an EU art competition intended to increase understanding of the effects of climate change, whereas the Methodist Girls High School’s history of promoting access for Sierra Leonean girls to secondary education reflects the EU’s firm belief in gender equality.
The visit included the distribution of a souvenir notebook, specially created for #TheEUandMeRoadShow, explaining the origins of the EU and providing information on some of the EU’s development cooperation with the Government of Sierra Leone.
To find out more about everything that happened on #TheEUandMeRoadShow and for information on the EU’s values and principles, go to our website or to @EUinSierraLeone on Facebook.
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