The sod-turning and unveiling ceremony for the construction of an agro-processing, training & product development facility for women was held on Tuesday, August 8, 2023, at Union Terrace.
When constructed, the facility will provide Saint Lucian women and young girls an opportunity for additional life chances, including empowerment, sustainable agriculture, and building more resilient communities.
The modern, HACCP-compliant facility will be owned and managed by a women’s micro-cooperative established through the project, and the women will be trained in agro-processing and micro-business management skills.
His Excellency Peter Chia-yen Chen, Taiwan’s Ambassador to Saint Lucia, said the new facility, which should be completed by next year, can serve as an inspiration to empower women, thereby encouraging them to reach their full potential.
“This April and May, we have worked with Raise Your Voice to conduct four training sessions on the topics of international food safety, good hygiene practices (GHP), food hazards and safe food handling processing,” Ambassador Chen said. “This is to provide attendees with basic but necessary and practical capacity to produce agro-products and to establish a food safety standard in Saint Lucia. More importantly, or I would say, more ambitiously, we hope that in the future this cooperative will serve as an agro-processing incubator for other small agro-processors to make samples and realize their own recipes for market navigation.”
He added: “I would like to commend Prime Minister Hon. Philip J. Pierre for his good governance and pledge of support for youth and women to earn their sustainable livelihood independently. Your vision encompassed with a promise in action is key to the establishment of today’s facility.”
Ambassador Chen also commended Hon. Virginia Albert-Poyotte, Minister for the Public Service, Home Affairs, Labour and Gender Affairs, for her efforts in promoting women’s rights in Saint Lucia, and Senior Minister Hon. Stephenson King, for his continuous dedication in the development of local community. He also thanked the other international partners who collaborated on the project.
Co-founder and President of Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia, Catherine Sealys, said the project will transform the lives of the women and girls for whom it is intended, adding that 60 participants will benefit from the project initially.
The participants, she noted, include women and girls who have been victims of gender-based violence and lack of access to justice.
“This facility is not only designed to create sustainable livelihoods for women and girls, but also to provide crucial support to small businesses involved in agro-processing,” Sealys said. “We recognize our ability as an organization to mobilize resources and support, and while we cannot share publicly the work we do with individual women and girls who are victims of gender-based violence, we have taken a decision to build a factory where we can share and provide space for small agro-processers, specifically women, to develop, process, label, and package their products for the local, regional and international markets.”
Sealys underscored the facility’s importance, telling the audience that while women and girls have long been the backbone of Saint Lucian society and have made significant contributions to the agriculture and agro-processing sectors, they continue to face many challenges, including limited access to resources, marketing opportunities, and support systems.
Keynote speaker, Hon. Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte, Minister for the Public Service, Home Affairs, Labour and Gender Affairs, who is also Parliamentary Representative for the Babonneau constituency in which the facility is located, congratulated Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia for achieving the important milestone.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic not only reversed the economic strides made globally over the years, but also the progress made towards achieving gender equality.
“In the case of this project, we are seeing that it is targeting women and girls in areas where they are deficient,” she said. “If we arm them with the skills and give them the knowledge and the ability, the economic productivity that will come out of what they are doing will be tenfold. Therefore, I applaud this project.”
Hon. Dr. Albert-Poyotte thanked the Government of Taiwan and the other partner agencies that were instrumental in making the project a reality. She said any investment provided to empower women can have a positive impact on the development of societies.
In November 2022, the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which was witnessed by Hon. Dr. Poyotte, to promote agro-processing skills among Saint Lucian women.
Source: Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in Saint Lucia