By Jaana Rehnstrom
ECOWAS is a collaborative organization for economic development among 16 western African states. ECOWAS Women was founded in 2008 and has members from six countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and works for the empowerment of women in multiple ways.
Mouna Moriah Ahmed-Berry is from Liberia, and temporarily in the United States. She came to participate in and host a parallel event at the NGOCSW in New York recently.
Could you describe what your organization does?
ECOWAS WOMEN In Liberia, is a non-profit organization involved in the promotion of programs and ideas that empowers grass-roots women through capacity building; mentor-ship, rehabilitation, talent discovery, various skills training, awareness programmes, health-care service, education, and loan scheme.
The members of each country organization choose which aspect to focus on. For example, in Liberia we are very committed to getting women into politics. Yes they get harassed, but nothing will change unless we do this. All political parties are welcome. We collaborate with the sister groups in the other countries on trainings.
We also invest in agriculture: we own a small plot of land, where we grow cassava. We now need a machine to make it into farina (a kind of flour), which women then sell in the market. We also use this to feed schoolchildren, and have volunteers in the schools.
We also organize microloans to women’s businesses.
How are you funded?
The organization is independently funded, mostly by $5 monthly donations from members. It also functions through supports of all kinds; and fundraising programs, beauty pageants, art exhibitions, cultural events, fashion shows, workshops, seminars, movie making & promotions, sports activities, agriculture, buying & selling, import & export, and other activities that help generate Funds to carry out its projects.
What do you hope to achieve while in the US and in association with Kota?
I hope to form Partnership with donor Organizations that will help enhance and strengthen the growth, development and ideals of the ECOWAS Women Organization.