When over 20 of our girls graduated from secondary school in May 2919, I was worried about what next to do? My concern was not baseless. Ijegun is one under-resourced community where you can hardly find things to get youths gainfully engaged. It is a dry community with lots of youths extremely sexually active but idle when it comes to purposeful living.
In finding solution, I created a whatsapp group to discuss with some of our volunteers and we resolved to initiate a one-month skill acquisition program and get trainers to teach our girls.
The first meeting held on 6th June with 22 girls enrolled. We were very strict about the rules and regulations- punctuality, regular attendance, active participation, creativity etc.
We were also encouraged by the passion and commitment displayed by the girls. The training soon turned out to be a life-saver; a treasured platform to learn new skills, kill boredom, have meaningful interaction with peers, get empowered and start their own small scale business.
We were honored to have Aunty Wemimo (a.k.a Nana) kick start the training for us. Using pieces of clothes from tailors and used Ankara fabrics from our various homes, she taught us how to make rag mats, foot mats, table mats, flower verse, wrist bangles, wall flower etc. The first one week was dedicated to all these. It was an intensive training and the girls proved equal to the task. They were dedicated and determined to learn.
The thrilling part is that making all these does not require heavy capital. All that is needed are pieces of clothes and the loom made by the carpenter.
From Rag-Mats to Fascinators & Caps
By the second week of training, the girls had moved on to learning how to make head-bands, caps and fascinators. Interestingly, this is a trending innovation and is often used at worship centers, be it churches, mosques and everywhere. Expectedly, there is a ready market too; with potential customers waiting to buy.
And so, Aunty Mary from Ejigbo drilled the girls, taking them through the process of making fascinators, caps and head-bands which can readily be sold. Of course they were super excited to learn and practice their hands at making these.
All Hands Had To Be On Deck
It didn't take long for our girls to swing into action. They were too excited to let this moment slip by. As far as they were concerned, this was a life-time opportunity. They trekked long distance each day to and fro our training centre at Ijegun.
In the words of Esther, the training is a major breakthrough because there is no way her mother would have been able to afford paying for her to enroll in a vocational training school. So, having this platform to acquire skills free of charge is nothing short of a miracle.
Many of the girls testified that the program has made them to stand out amongst their peers back home because it has added great value to their lives. They also expressed profound appreciation to our organization, mentors and trainers.
From Fascinators To Beads
Another vocation that caught our fancy was beads-making. And not only did our girls make necklace, they also make earring, wrist-watch and bangles from beads as we provided cash for materials. I was not perfect at first but with every passing day they mastered the act.
Of course it didn’t take long before they gained mastery here. Some even went as far as using Ankara fabrics to make beads necklace, earrings and rings.
And Here Comes Our Beautiful Products!
Within the space of 5 weeks, the girls had gained mastery in making beads, fascinators, caps, flower-verse, foot-mats, wristbands, brooch and much more. As the training session drew to a close, they wouldn’t let me be- they needed money to make products towards their graduation ceremony.
And so I had to make fund available. It was small money but it was so amazing to see how well they utilized it. The tables were filled with beautiful items.
The graduation ceremony was splendid. It held during our monthly mentoring session and had in attendance over 150 girls, 63 boys and 20 adults. Some of the mothers also came to felicitate with their graduating daughters. Although some of the girls would not pull through because they didn’t meet up with our criteria, 16 out of the 22 finally graduated on 13th July and were all awarded certificates.
The best three also got start up funds to begin their own businesses.
And Here Comes Our Young Entrepreneurs!
The cash presentation held three days later in our office at Ijegun. Sophie Okojie came 1st, Esther Olulode 2nd and Blessing Chukwu 3rd. While these got cash prices, others also got consolation prices and were also encouraged to make products and sell.
I couldn’t make it to the event but our community volunteer, my friend and secondary schoolmate Mrs. Feyikemi Job-Akinremi made the presentation on my behalf.
Interestingly, the girls have started getting orders and selling their products in exchange for money. In the words of Blessing Chukwu, “Now I don’t have to bother my parents for every little thing. Now, I have a skill with which to earn money when I get to the university. I am empowered now and I am so grateful.”
It’s such a joy to know that both the awardee and every other girl that participated in the training have already started to earn money from the sales of their products- Ankara wristbands, Caps, Fascinators, Earrings, Necklace and many more. I am super-excited! This is so inspiring; so encouraging too!