(Photo: Coach Clare dancing with Evelyn and other trainees)
It is critical that we focus on the economic empowerment and financial independence through building the skills of women and girls. While providing education is vital to changing limiting mindsets, without skills to become economically independent, women and girls can find themselves stuck in abusive and unhealthy relationships. The issues faced by out-of-school and un-employed (or under-employed) young women living in the slums of Uganda are enormous. The majority of young women have never finished primary school, are illiterate, and live in states of perpetual poverty. Youth employment, particularly for disadvantage female youth is a major issue in Uganda. Uganda has one of the highest rates of young women out of the labour force (86 percent), with high gender disparities in unemployment rates for youth (World Bank, 2014). This poses a challenge that is intensified by the limited size of the formal wage sector, making it crucial to ensure that female youth have the skills to allow them to succeed in the informal sector and as entrepreneurs.
Focusing our efforts on the skills building of women and girls, especially those living in extreme poverty, is of great importance if we are ever going to create a world in which no one is limited by their gender or class.
In the struggle to promote the economic independence and to reduce unemployment rates among young vulnerable women, we have enrolled 15 women in the first of two cohorts of trainees in our Sewing Our Futures Project. This Project looks at improving the livelihoods and economically empowering out-of-school female youth through developing their skills for self-employment. The six-month project includes various activities: vocational training in sewing, tailoring, and fashion design, entrepreneurship development and mentorship, and personal skills training to promote the well-being of vulnerable young women so that they can break intergenerational cycles of poverty. It is generously supported by the Arthur B. Schultz Foundation.
(Photo: Young women working in the workshop)
During the Sewing Our Futures training, the young women get a chance to learn sewing and tailoring skills and bring their creativity to fashion design. To graduate from the program, each woman will design and produce her own fashion piece to present. We also realized that in addition to learning a skill in sewing, it is vital that she also learn the personal and business skills to become economically independent. Thus, the trainees are also receiving training from our Program Assistant, Coach Joanne, on personal skills development such as assertiveness, self-confidence, and effective communication to encourage them to have positive attitudes and skills as they carry on with their lives in the business world.
After their session on assertiveness, Evelyn, one of the sewing trainees shared:
“Before I came here I was shy. I believe these sessions will help me improve my communication skills as I interact with other people.”
(Photo: Evelyn putting her hand up to contribute during Coach Joanne's session)
Below you will meet some the young women in the Sewing Our Futures Project and understand how the program has allowed them to improve and grow their skills.
“My name is Jesca Olinga. I am 29 years old and a single mother of two children. I heard about the training from a former trainee in 2017. I visited the Girl Up offices in late September to get more information about the project and I was asked to come back in January 2018 for registration. I kept on checking with the coaches so that they kept me in their thoughts as they enroll new students. When the year began I came back and I was registered as one of the trainees in this project.
I was inspired by my sister to take on this sewing training, she owns a tailoring workshop with stable inflow and she’s able to sustain her family. When I am done with this training, I want to start up my own workshop as well so that I am in position to take good care of my children and teach other women what I have learnt.”
Watch Jesca's video below and be inspired by her story.
“My name is Shadia Thabiiti. I am 16 years old. I joined this training because I was not sure whether my father was going to give me the money I needed to join a secondary school. I decided to come and learn how to tailor. It wasn’t an easy decision, the fact that most of my friends joined secondary schools.
But for the time I have attended the training, I have realized that I can do more than what I ever imagined. I have made new friends who are even supporting me to perfect the skill of tailoring. I believe by the end of this six-months training, I will be able to start-up my own tailoring business”
(Photo: Shadia (R) on a sewing machine)
“My name is Zaina. I heard about the sewing training from a friend and got interested. I want to become the top fashionista who deals and relates with others in an acceptable way and at the same time, I want to inspire young children to build their dreams.
In the training we had with Coach Joanne it helped me to realize that in order to achieve my dreams, I have to be confident when addressing my customers and to be assertive. This really helped me to even discover myself. I work with children and before I didn’t know how best I could relate and communicate to them without being rude. I am so thankful for the training. It was an eye opener for me on how best I can conduct myself around them so that I can be able to inspire and build their dreams!”
(Photo: Zaina perfecting her skills)
As the Sewing Our Futures Project continues into its third month, we are excited to see the changes it will have in the lives of these young women and the sustainable impact it will have on the health and well-being of their families. You can support these inspirational and dedicated young women, and others like them, by donating at www.girlupuganda.org/donate and sharing this story with your friends!