Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is a bridge between the employed and unemployed; a true beacon of hope for people like Cecilia and other refugees like her.
In 2019 Cecilia Oliver Juru sought refuge in Palorinya refugee settlement a place she has called home since she fled the war in South Sudan with her husband and five children. Despite the peace and calm she found in Uganda, Cecilia drowned in alcohol to endure the unending cycle of mental and physical abuse from her husband. “I thought I was the poorest, so I would not associate with people who have money.” she shared.
I knew that now my time has come.
The smell of hope
By 2021 Cecilia was desperate for a solution and when she heard of the Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) implemented by Stromme Foundation in partnership with RICE WestNile with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) she smelled hope. “I knew that now my time has come,” she recounts.
TVET is intended to provide vocational and life skills to unemployed host community and refugee youth (20-35 years) who have either successfully completed formal education or that have not been able to complete the education cycle with the intention of economic empowerment.
An answered prayer
Unfortunately, Cecilia was not among the youths shortlisted! Heartbroken and stressed out, she never lost hope, Cecilia visited the TVET center every day until she was enrolled after one girl dropped out. For Cecilia her prayers had been answered and as if it wasn’t enough the training came with life skills training and psychosocial support.
The psychosocial support was the icing on the cake for Cecilia that had suffered abuse for over five years. After 3 months of training, she was attached to a local artisan for an additional 3 months of skills training on tailoring.
Upon graduation in February 2022, Cecilia was grouped with two more female youths and supported with startup kits including 1 tailoring machine, 12 material rolls, a rotary cutter and extra blades, scissors, wonder clips, pins and needles, and threads to start their business.
A united front
The three ladies embraced the initiative and formed Destiny Tailoring Group. “When we started work it was really challenging. We were very new in the market with no customers, and we were disappointed when some of our colleagues from other groups split up and some even sold their startup kits” Cecilia narrates.
The group did not give up and rented a room at Kinyiba Market in Zone 3 West Palorinya Refugee Settlement worth Ugx25,000 per month. The group started by repairing clothes which attracted customers and boosted their business. By December 2022, the group had made more than Ugx300,000 and even acquired another sewing machine.
Cecilia and her group were later visited by a few Stromme Foundation and RICE WestNile program monitoring teams. The group was challenged to register with the district for more opportunities and they did. Today they have been qualified as local artisans to the youth at the TVET center. Currently, the group is tutoring 14 female youths in tailoring.
I have the courage to stand up and speak and I am a better mother to my children.
Lifelong skills for poverty eradication
“I appreciate the support from Stromme Foundation and RICE West Nile. Even after graduation they are still following us up and supporting us. I used to be isolated and drunk, but after the life skills training, I have the courage to stand up and speak and I am a better mother to my children,” shared Cecilia.
Today, Cecilia earns more than Ugx15,000 per day which enables her to make a weekly saving of Ugx5,000 per week. Despite the reduction of food ration by other aid partners in the settlement, she can take her children to school and provide them with meals and scholastic materials.
Cecilia encourages more youth to enroll in the TVET program to fight against drug/alcohol abuse and unemployment. Technical Vocational Education and Training provides lifelong skills to individuals that would otherwise have no employable skills. It is a clear pathway out of poverty.