How it Started
In October 2015, we started a skills training programme for single mothers in Freetown through our partnership with The Peter Stebbings Memorial Charity. We now work with three groups in Freetown.
Due to its topography, Freetown is divided into three sections: Western, Central, and Eastern areas. Each of these sections have large slums with considerable social and economic deprivations. The project draws equal number of recruits from each section:
- The Hopanda Women’s Group (Western Area)
- The Women’s Prison (Central Freetown)
- The United Polio Brothers & Sisters at Shell (Eastern Freetown)
The first Group: Hopanda Women’s Group, Lumley, Freetown.
Hopanda Women’s Group is located in Malama, Lumley in the Western area of Freetown. We have recruited 20 women for the Hopanda Women’s Group for the first skills training and tool support activities. Lumley is one of the most deprived sections of Freetown, with a high rate of single motherhood and very high unemployment among women. Many of the women and their children work in labour-intensive small stone quarries to make ends meet.
The Approach to Recruitment & Skills Training
The Hopanda group was already in existence and had previously diversified their activities to include domestic work that also involved cleaning in private homes in the Lumley area. However, due to the abuse they received, the women refrained from offering domestic cleaning services.
Each of the women spoke of their plight and the urgent need for skills training and tool support. The group is of diverse backgrounds including peddlers, stonebreakers, and those who had no defined means of providing for themselves and their children.
The Ebola crisis and its aftermath made it even more difficult for most women to meet their daily needs, and they were clearly struggling. Some of their children have not been able to return to school for lack of support.
Between the months of October and December 2015 we identified twenty women and structured a skills training programme together. With the women’s help we identified tailoring, soap-making, Gara (tie & dye) making, and adult education (including business skills and health and sanitation). Adult education has turned out to be a major component of the project where women are taught business skills that enable them to manage their income efficiently, and also on issues of personal health, hygiene and sanitation. This has proved extremely significant.
“Before the Ebola crisis I used to peddle Chinese medicines on the streets on commission. If I didn’t sell enough, my children and I won’t have a meal. I am the mother and father of my three children” – Aminata Sesay.
Skills training – the first sessions
Once an agreement was reached on a course of skills training programme with the women, we brought in trainers in each of the areas of interest, and decided to undertake thorough and intensive training sessions.
Gara (tye & dye) Making
Gara is a very popular traditional cloth across West Africa. It is a source of good and steady income for highly skilled women who produce and sell them in their communities. Gara has many different uses: they are made into dresses, outfits for men, wrappers for women, and beddings. Sierra Leone is known for its high -quality Gara, which are sold throughout West Africa.
Tailoring is of equal significance especially in Sierra Leone where there are no high-street clothing retailers where people could go to buy their outfits. It is also culturally important for them that they can produce dresses, head ties and other items that appeal to traditional tastes, and sell them in the local market.
The women at Hopanda also elected to learn to make soap for the local market. Like Gara, laundry and bathing soaps are extremely popular in the country, and it requires very good skills to be able to produce quality ones for sale in the market.
These are skills that guarantee good and steady income for women.