Training tailors, cooks or service staff

Catholic nuns are providing skills training to young women in Zambia to help them escape poverty.

Poverty is widespread in Zambia, with rural areas more affected than urban areas. Moreover, women and girls are particularly disadvantaged in a largely unequal society. Many rural poor migrate and settle in slum areas often located in or on the outskirts of urban centres. One such area is Chawama, one of Lusaka’s largest slums.

The Missionary Sisters of the Holy Family, a Catholic parish based in Lusaka, try to help women and adolescent girls in Chawama. Inside their Cheshire Divine Providence Home, they have established a Homecraft training school, a computer school, primary and secondary schools. The Homecraft training school offers various skills training such as cookery, tailoring, handicraft and knitting among others to young women.

Catholic missionaries like the Sisters of the Holy Family have been present in Africa since the 18th century. On top of spreading their religious doctrines, they are involved in socio-economic development programmes in many African countries.

“We teach the young ladies and mothers how to improve their life in society and in their homes. We empower them with some skills in tailoring and designing, cooking and baking, handicraft and knitting. Through all these skills, we believe that we are helping some of these Zambian women to fight poverty in society,” says Magdalene Wanja, sister-in-charge of the skills training school.

The Homecraft training school enrols over 100 students per year. Most of its trainees end up working in restaurants, tailoring shops, hotels, and lodging facilities. Some of the young women start and run their own small businesses. “I look forward to graduating and finding a job at a hotel or a resort so that I can raise income to start my own restaurant in future,” says Mirriam Munwela, one of the students doing a tailoring and catering course.

Emeldah Lungu, 28, another student at the training school, explains that it is her dream one day to become a fashion designer. “My career is slowly unfolding. My passion has always been to become a fashion designer. Thank you Sisters at Homecraft training school for adding value to what I want to become. I can’t wait to live my dream and lift myself out of poverty,” Lungu stated.

The Catholic missionaries are happy to see their skills development programme helping women in Chawama. Sister Wanja affirms: “We are happy that the response from women is overwhelming despite the financial challenges they go through to manage to pay for their one and half year training as the school depends on their tuition fees to operate effectively.”

Derrick Silimina is a freelance journalist based in Lusaka.

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