When we set out on the journey to improve skills amongst girls in Ruhanga SW Uganda, we faced a few questions both internally and externally.
Internally, we had gathered evidence that told us, there were girls in most of the households we had visited with nothing to do. The girls had dropped out of school due to a lack of school fees and their future prospects were in doubt. They were caught up in that gap of Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETS). Their parents begged us to do something for their daughters and some simply wanted them married off.
We had not given much thought to working with young people never mind girls in such circumstance. We did not have funding for Youth programs.
What could we do to help?
We were in the process of setting up the Menstrual Hygiene programme and the obvious choice was create a sewing workshop that would also a year. We invited girls that were interested in learning how to sew to join our first sewing workshop and those that could sew already to join the menstrual hygiene programme.
Having done so, we had a new concern/question- by offering sewing lessons, would we be perceived as an organisation that stereo types girls? This was short-lived when we had more applicants than we could accommodate.
Externally, we were asked an important question. How many seamstresses does a small village such as Ruhanga need? Ruhanga is made up of approximately 750 households. This was therefore a valid question.
The reasoning here was that, we would expend resources on skills training but on completion, the girls would not all be able to put these skills to good use due to market saturation.
This was a fair observation. It however missed an important aspect of life. Not everyone remains in the village, town or city in which they were born. This reality applies to girls in rural areas too. If the girls coming out of our workshops moved elsewhere, they would have better prospects if they had a skill to take with them.
Fast forward to today and we have 35 girls who have been through our sewing workshops and this is a sample of what some of them are doing today.
This is Helen, she completed. She was part of our third sewing workshop and on completion her parent bought her a sewing machine. She is currently self employed as a seamstress
Eva was in the second cohort and has since acquired a sewing machine. She use her income to pay school fees for her children.
This is Marion Kyomugisha. She has her own sewing machine and a shop from where she makes T-shirts for sale.
This is Marion Amuhire. She was part of the second cohort . She has a corner shop selling groceries and a sewing machine. She takes in sewing jobs and is married with one child.
Olivia left us last year and has her own sewing machine. She makes cotton bags and dresses that she sells in the local market.
Oliver is perhaps our biggest success story. She was part of year two cohort. She has rented a shop and set up her own sewing workshop. She provides sewing lessons for a fee of £21. She is married with two children.
Amyline completed her training in 2019. She has acquired a sewing machine and currently makes Tote bags, Shorts and shirts for sale
This is Jackline. She was in our first sewing workshop. Jackline is one of those girls that have not been able to access a personal sewing machine. She has however used her skills to secure a job as a seamstress in someone else’s business.
Olious was part of the third cohort. She has set up a sewing workshop and specialises in making school uniforms for local schools.
These examples indicate that there is a demand for practical skills for girls who for whatever reason cannot continue in formal education. In addition that such skills gives girls an option when they transition into adulthood.
For our part we would like to continue providing these workshops free of charge. You can be part of this effort by donating to this program at