Agnes Never has always been hardworking right from when she was in school. She had dreams of becoming a highly educated and respected member of her society. However, her dream was short-lived when her father stopped paying Agnes’s school fees before she completed her primary education. Her dad had been disappointed by Agnes’s elder sister who dropped out of school after getting pregnant while in Senior Two. For fear that Agnes would turn out the same way as her sister, her father stopped paying her school fees and only concentrated on educating his sons. Agnes’ pleas to give her a chance at education fell on deaf ears and Agnes had no choice but to stay at home.
According to an article by Adam Gule of New Vision, only 18 girls out of 234 candidates sat for their Senior Six exams in Yumbe district in 2022. Gule attributed this to the failure of the majority of parents in Yumbe district to recognize the value of educating the girl child.
Using money she had borrowed, Agnes started hawking African print materials from Congo. One day as she was walking around with her merchandise, she saw a poster by Norwegian Refugee Council about different trainings for youth in her community. These trainings were under the Skills Development Fund, implemented by Enabel and the Ministry of Education and Sports and funded by the European Union and German Cooperation.
Agnes picked an interest in tailoring because it fit in with what she was doing already. In addition to selling material, she could include sewing outfits for her customers if she learnt the skill.
So, in 2022, Agnes went to Koboko town for the 3 months tailoring course, at the end of which she came out with the skills to start her business. She decided to start her business immediately after her training for fear that she might forget what she had learnt. She went the extra mile to rent a sewing machine and began her business. By the time she received her sewing machine as a startup incentive, Agnes was already in business.
“I did not want to forget what I had learnt in the training and that is why I decided to start my business straight away, using a sewing machine that I used to rent from someone.”
Agnes wants to turn her business into a wholesale shop by acquiring more African print material. She also wants to buy more sewing machines to train people so that she can increase her income.
In addition to tailoring skills, Agnes also trained in business skills which have enhanced her business. Before, she would just spend the money she would make from her business but now she learnt to keep records and to re-invest in her business.
Agnes, 29, is now making more money than before and is therefore able to pay her rent of UGX 10,000($3) a month, take care of her children and even restock. Before she acquired tailoring skills, Agnes would go home with about UGX 10,000 but now, she goes home with about UGX 25,000($7). She charges a minimum of UGX 10,000 per cloth she tailors.
She inspired her friend, who owned a sewing machine but didn’t know how to use it. Her friend is now sharing the same space with Agnes and learning from her, while she contributes to the rent. Today, Agnes is supporting her father and he regrets not having invested in her education.
“He only educated my brothers, but they don’t help him because they just drink alcohol yet for me, I am able to take care of myself without begging from others and I will continue to work hard and support my children through school.”
Agnes has also introduced her child to tailoring and at 10 years old, she is gradually picking up the skill. Agnes occasionally gets requests from women in her community to train them, but she is unable to because she does not have extra sewing machines.
“My plan is to acquire more sewing machines so that I can start training other interested women. I also want to acquire an electric sewing machine so that I can put embroidery on the clothes I sew”.
This will enhance the quality of her clothes and increase their value, thereby earning her more revenue.