I wanted to share a story. One of those hundreds of stories that inspire me every day at SOS Children’s Village.
Sherapy, a young woman from Zambia who grew up in a family with 10 children on the outskirts of Lusaka. Her family lived in poverty surviving on small-scale farming. Her parents couldn’t afford her school fees beyond grade seven, the last free year of public education in Zambia. Shortly after dropping out of school she got married and started working. Sherapy’s transition from childhood to adulthood was abrupt and she felt that she didn’t receive a foundation to pursue her dreams.
Sherapy’s story is not unique in the world. Faced with all kinds of challenges from lack of educational opportunities to gender stereotypes women are often pushed into jobs with long hours, little to no recognition, and wages that are not enough to sustain their families. When resources are scarce boys are often prioritized in being supported to reach their full potential which reinforces disadvantage for girls across generations.
Fortunately, Sherapy’s dream was revived when one of her neighbors told her about the courses provided by SOS Vocational Training Center in Lusaka. Her application was successful and in 2012 she started a one-year course in sewing and design.
Every year nearly 170,000 people receive education and job training in SOS Vocational Training Centers worldwide. The training is strongly orientated towards local and regional job prospects. In Lusaka, SOS offers a variety of courses including tailoring, design, electrical engineering, carpentry, and food production. With these skills, young people from both SOS Children’s Villages and local communities can find employment or become entrepreneurs.
Sherapy chose the latter. After her graduation from the tailoring program, SOS connected her with a local partner organization that empowers young people with entrepreneurial skills. While learning about starting her own business Sherapy also received an opportunity to put her skills into practice – SOS Hermann Gmeiner School hired her to sew 1,000 school uniforms, which lead to the financial freedom for her to open her own tailoring shop the next year.
This success story doesn’t stop here though. Fast forward a few years and now Sherapy employs her sisters who are learning valuable entrepreneurial skills by helping her run the shop. Now she earns a stable living wage and able to support her teenage daughters to further their education to follow the careers of their choice.