"Now my parents look to me for support – I am no longer a burden!"
– Janet, Elimu Alumni
How Sewing Makes a Difference
In rural Kenya, there are no clothing shops or department stores and school uniforms are a must for every student. So, running your own sewing business is a stable income generator. With a business and an income, a young woman becomes an independent member of her society.
She puts her younger siblings through school and becomes a voice for her family. She gets to make choices for her own future.
The Challenges She Faces
In Kenya, especially in the coast where Elimu is situated, a rural girl’s future is often one of early marriage and lack of formal education. Without high school or college, a girl in Kenya has no choice for her future. Fathers and uncles make the decisions – whether she will go to high school or not, who she will marry, and when she will marry.
She can even end up as a second or third wife which means house and field help for that family. Child bride marriages can involve girls as young as 12. High school has costly school fees and so the limited finances more often go to educating boys. Many rural communities practice witchcraft which ostracizes and terrorizes the victim, and female genital mutilation, known as female circumcision, is not uncommon.
Local Solutions to Local Challenges
Elimu sponsors girls to Heri Ministries Sewing Project, a 2-year training program that equips them with income generating skills and a sewing trade. The college was established in 2002 by a Kenyan woman with a vision of providing more than just technical skills. The school offers a positive, Christian-based learning and living environment and personal counselling. The course normally takes two years and prepares students for the Kenya National Trade Certificate exams making them officially certified artisans.
Entrepreneurship and Digital Skills
Students of Elimu Sewing Project meet at Elimu Resource Centre for entrepreneurship and computer training to enhance and modernize their trade skills. They learn to master digital technology to gain exposure to new designs and creatives ideas. Their modern skills enhance their competitive edge back in their home villages and they are seen as leaders.
Collaboration Makes Connections
Elimu engages partners to expose our sewing students to opportunities they could not otherwise dream of accessing. Click here to go to our eMagazine and read about L.A. designer and owner of Tomfoolery.la, Shannon Ashford, who came to Malindi to work with Elimu sewing graduates. The product of three weeks of training, creating and sharing culture lead to Tomfoolery’s first Paris Fashion Week launch with a distinctly Kenyan style! Click here to read about Friends from Ireland and MABEL two organizations collaborating to train African women on sewing washable reusable feminine products. They trained our sewing students both on how to sew fabric pads and how to talk to girls about hygiene and topics they often don’t usually get to talk about.
Project Impact and Evaluation
The Elimu team works in partnership with Heri Ministries Sewing Project to identify and assess candidates to our sewing project. We liaise with the girls throughout their two-year program to follow their progress and welfare. We step in from time to time to assist with medical emergencies. We also visit our graduates in their rural homes to check how their businesses are running. We seek income generating opportunities for them. We also bring graduates back to the college to share their stories of challenges and successes with the students.