Ndohnwie Peter Fongwe – Tailoring Training and Purchase of Sewing Machines to Widows

The objective of the Tailoring Training and Purchase of Sewing Machines to Widows project is to train 10 Internally Displaced widows living in Obili with tailoring and business skills. Additionally, they will be provided with a sewing machine and materials that will guide them towards economic independence. We have realized that widows and their children form an unfortunate block of the worlds most disadvantaged and discriminated group and they continue to face increased challenges as a result of epidemic, war, economic collapse, and stagnation. The consequences of the above is that widows losses identity and end up living in poverty. Without skills, support, or opportunity, widows often succumb to the vicious cycle of poverty. Many Internally Displaced Widows – IDPs – in Yaounde, precisely in Obili quarter, would love to have their own small business, however lacked the money and skills to do so.

More than 75% of these IDPs widows earned less than a $1 a day. With a limited education, which greatly hinder these widows ability from finding a quality job to support themselves and their families, they are often at risk of being trapped into dehumanizing activities like sex trade, beggary, theft, and human trafficking. Equipped with sewing skills, sewing machines, and business skills, the widows will have the opportunity to supplement their family income thereby, increasing their status within the family. It is important to note that a widows economic empowerment raises the entire living standard of the household because they are less likely to spend income in a nonproductive short term manner. Widows priorities for spending income are children, medical services, nutrition, school fee, and household needs. Their primary interest is the well being of their families. Therefore, empowered widows produces a positive ripple effect of improve health, nutrition, education, and welfare for all household members. Along with economic rewards, widows who are able to operate successful businesses, gain self-confidence, independence and a sense of pride in their accomplishments and enjoy increased respect in the community.

Growing up in a poor community where I witnessed poverty at the highest level after having lost my father at a very young age, my mother become a widow. Abandoned by family members and without support, she was forced to succumb to the vicious cycle of poverty. After learning tailoring and business skills, she was able to open her own tailoring workshop, which permitted her to come out of poverty and was therefore, able to provide for her needs, the need of all of her children’s, and to a lesser extent, was able to assist some family members when they had problems. Inspired by her resilience, motivation, devotion, and determination, growing up as a kid, I developed that strong compassion toward fellow widows and orphans and was always passionate to help in what ever ways I could. Hence my motivation to assist them to come out of misery and poverty. The seed grant from The Pollination Project will enable myself and team members of our community organisation, Hope in Life Foundation for Widows and Orphans, to provide brand new butterfly sewing machines and sewing materials to 10 IDP widows, enabling them to start their own home tailoring business after completing a free tailoring and business skills training program. Operating their own businesses will require the widows to become skilled in dealing with suppliers, marketers and customers.

Learning to negotiate business hurdles will improve their decision making ability. As they become more confident, they are likely to become more involved in their communities and local institutions. Gradually, these skills can migrate to social and political circles so that these widows become more adapt at advocating for themselves, families, and the community. Learning the process of advocating for much needed local services can accelerate poverty reduction on a multitude of fronts and thus give them economic and financial freedom in the future.