Paying it Forward: Local Artisans Build Vulnerable Youth’s Vocational Skills

After growing up in poverty, Fenias Macolelane Bila has earned a good living through tailoring over the past 37 years, which enabled him to support his children’s higher education and build his family a home in his community of Chicumbane in the Limpopo District of the Gaza Province of Mozambique. He sees a bright future in his profession and encourages young people, including three of his own children, to enter it as a way of overcoming financial difficulties. Fenias accepted an invitation from UDEBA-LAB, a local partner organization of the Bantwana Initiative of World Education, Inc. (WEI/B) on the USAID-funded Força à Comunidade e Crianças (FCC) project, to train vulnerable girls in basic tailoring skills because he does not like to see any child suffering the same hardships that he did in his youth and wants to do everything in his power to help them meet their basic needs and improve their future prospects.

I always did what I could to help children, but I didn’t think giving knowledge was helping. I thought helping kids was just offering something material. However, with this work, I feel that it is worth giving knowledge because knowledge stays with them for life and can change their lives, while material goods do not last forever and they will end up back in their original situation. This initiative opened my eyes and I am also learning. –Fenias

Fenias is training eight girls on basic cutting and sewing skills and providing them with knowledge, motivation, technique, and hands-on experience, giving his all to developing the girls’ skillsets in tailoring over a three-month period. Fenias’ dedication to helping others and patience is appreciated by Brígida Maria Zuguene, a beneficiary of the FCC initiative who considers him a father figure.

Brígida, a 21-year-old orphan, lives in the 3 Julius Nyerere neighborhood. Because of disagreements with her husband and lack of means to support themselves, she moved in with her elderly grandmother. She had dropped out of school due to the prohibitive costs, but with FCC support and school fee exemptions, she reintegrated into Grade 7 in 2017 and now attends Grade 10. In addition, Brígida participates in community HIV prevention sessions and receive referrals to HIV testing and counseling and GBV services in adolescent-friendly clinics.

To strengthen her economic resilience so she can avoid engaging in risky behaviors for survival, Brígida participates in vocational training under Fenias’ guidance. She has proven to be dynamic and eager to learn, and already knows how to make skirts and shirts. At the end of training, she will receive a kit of basic tools of the trade to start her own tailoring business.

I am very happy that Mr. Fenias behaved like a real father. I learned to sew and I feel that this profession will help me a lot in my future. I am thankful for the opportunity to return to school and learn to sew—I will be able to support my needs better and also help other girls with the skills we are here to learn. –Brígida