This week (from 3 to 10 May), an unusually distinctive looking coach will be touring Sierra Leone’s highways and byways. Its unmistakable blue and yellow branding and European flag will instantly identify it with the EU. Inside will be a film crew, and a pop-up photo exhibition that represents a selection of the EU’s work in Sierra Leone and indicates how it supports Sierra Leone’s progress towards an economically vibrant and inclusive society.
In the run-up to Europe Day 2021 on May 9th, the EU this year is taking its celebration of EU’s values, principles and development cooperation partnership with Sierra Leone to a much wider audience, with #TheEUandMe Roadshow and Pop-Up Photo Exhibition.
With scheduled stops in Port Loko, Makeni, Kenema and Bo, as well as in Freetown, the brightly branded EU bus and its two specially created cartoon characters – Ami and Ahmed, a pair of curious and enquiring teenagers – will make an entertaining and memorable sight.
However,#TheEUandMe Roadshow and Pop-Up Photo Exhibition also has a more profound purpose. It is intended to increase understanding of the EU’s work with Sierra Leone and how it contributes to boost agriculture, improves learning environments and livelihoods, facilitates travel and commerce, supports the inclusion of women and young people and protects survivors of sex and gender-based violence.
In visits to a selection of EU supported projects, stories of individuals and communities who have first-hand experience of their impact, will be captured on film so they can be shared with a wider audience. Ami and Ahmed, with their questioning outlook, will also contribute to relay a positive message about the future of Sierra Leone and portray how crucially important it is that young people are involved and proactively engaged in their country’s development.
Among the planned stops are an EU-Trócaire project to strengthen the voice and influence of vulnerable and marginalised women in local governance and agricultural development processes, which has given women in Bombali, Port Loko and Kambia districts the confidence to challenge underlying causes of gender inequality.
One of these women is Aminata Kamara who stood for election in Konta Bana community in Marampa chiefdom, Port Loko and succeeded, against the odds, to become the community’s first Deputy Headwoman. The position, second to the village Head, is a prestigious role.
An EU-Solidaridad project to revive Sierra Leone’s cocoa, coffee and cashew economy has supported 7,818 farmers and brought women and people with disabilities, who previously relied on subsistence agriculture, into the sector by enabling their ownership of cashew, coffee and cocoa farms.
The Rainbo Centres work across the country to tackle the causes and consequences of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Sierra Leone’s deeply gendered society and are delivering two European Union projects in Sierra Leone.
The first – funded by Irish Aid through the Embassy of Ireland in Sierra Leone – is aimed at making sure that women and girls are aware of, have access to and make use of the free services available to them; the second strengthens community understanding and engagement to prevent SGBV against women and girls in Sierra Leone.
Technical and vocational education and training(TVET) is a vital pathway towards learning and developing work related skills. In Sierra Leone, work to strengthen TVET, co-financed by the European Union and German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), has boosted prospects for TVET students through skills certification programmes in three core occupational areas: in-service teacher training, an online communication platform to support a multi-sector coordination structure as well as vital equipment and tools for TVET centres.
Infrastructure connects communities to greater opportunities for employment, healthcare and education. The EU-funded Bandajuma-Liberia Border Roads and Bridges project will contribute to economic diversification and development and represents the commitment of the EU to delivering renewed infrastructure to Salone.
This immense project has rehabilitated almost 100 km of the Trans-West African Coastal Highway and includes the construction of three major bridges, across the Sewa River, the Waanje River Bridge and the Moa River.
#TheEUandMe Roadshow and Pop-Up Photo Exhibition will finish on the 10th May with a visit to some of Freetown’s schools, where EU’s ambassadors will discuss “The role of young people in the EU-Sierra Leone partnership” with the pupils, and how they can become more actively involved in shaping their future.
To see all this and find out more about the EU’s partnership in Sierra Leone’s transformational journey, and how its development assistance aligns with the Sierra Leone Government’s National Development Plan, look out for Ami and Ahmed.