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Press Release

CONTACT: Layli Maparyan

Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund of Liberia Unveils New Name and Focus of Newly-Formed Organization

New organization to focus on expanding Liberian market women’s access to education, entrepreneurship, health and agriculture training programs

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – December 31, 2016 – The International Board of Directors of the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund (SMWF) announced today that the Liberia-based organization providing market women with adult literacy and business development training and skills development will be transformed into a new organization named Sustainable Market Women’s Fund.

“The intention of the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund has always been to transfer the ownership and vision of the organization to the market women of Liberia,” said Dorothy Davis, Founding Member and Chair of the International Board of the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund. “We believe this is the time to do so and have been working with the Liberia Board of Directors in ensuring this smooth transition.”

Lusu Sloan, President of the Liberia Marketing Association and current member of the Liberia Board of Directors, will lead the new organization as its Executive Director starting in February 2017. The current Board of Directors in Liberia, chaired by Olivia Shannon, will hold on until the Executive Director reconstitutes a new Board of Directors.

The newly-formed organization’s mission will focus on supporting Liberia’s market women with greater access to education, entrepreneurship, health and agriculture training programs. Its headquarters was relocated to the Jorkpentown Market, one of the markets renovated by the organization in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.

Market women are the backbone of Liberia’s economy. Nearly 75% of Liberian women work in the informal sector, delivering 85% of agricultural marketing and trading in the West African nation.

“We’re excited about the new beginnings for the Sustainable Market Women’s Fund. The new organization will build on the tremendous success and impact of its predecessor, the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund,” said Layli Maparyan, new Chair of the International Board of Directors of Sustainable Market Women’s Fund.

Since its inception in 2007, the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund has built and renovated 26 markets and provided literacy, business, market management and health training and credit services for nearly 4,000 market women in 10 counties in Liberia.

“Market women are the change agents in their communities,” said Olivia Shannon, Chair of the Board of Directors in Liberia. “By expanding our mission and reach, the Sustainable Market Women’s Fund seeks to bolster the income and livelihoods of  Liberian market women and women farmers, and empower them to strengthen their capacities to create successful, sustainable businesses for themselves, their families and their country.”

While the Ebola outbreak curtailed some of SMWF’s programming efforts in 2014 and 2015, the global health crisis also redefined the course of the organization’s direction. In response to the Ebola crisis, more than 400 participants were trained in Ebola prevention, pre-natal care and basic healthcare.

Given the tremendous body of work and research over the last nine years, the archives of the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund are being transferred to The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, a division of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Archives. The archive will be available to the public for research and scholarship in 2017.

Additionally, the Sustainable Market Women’s Fund will continue strengthening local and global partnerships with Liberian Ministries and government agencies, market women and market leadership, donors and businesses, vendors and NGOs, universities, and international development institutions.

The Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund was named in honor of Liberia’s first woman president, H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose grandmother was a market woman.