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RED Saves Young People from Jaws of Poverty

Brenda doing what she knows best Brenda doing what she knows best - pic by Happy Njalam'mano

When life seemed to become meaningless among the young people in Zomba, the Resilient Economic Development (RED) project brought in some sense to it.

For example, Passover Ngwala, 20, from the area of Traditional Authority Chikowi could have been married after dropping out of school for lack of school fees.

“I had a dream. The dream was to become a mechanic. The dream was, however, shuttered when I was in Form 1 because I could not go further than that. My parents could not afford school fees for me. Marriage was my alternative destination,” she said.

Before the marriage alternative materialized, what seemed to be a miraculous escape door arrived.

“In 2021, Save the Children through the RED Project came with a variety of trainings for the young people in our area. Motor cycle mechanic was among them. I did not hesitate but to grab it with all my might,” she said.

Passover is now a motorcycle mechanic plying her trade at Mayaka Trading Center in the district.

“I am now able to get my basic needs and support my parents unlike in the past. Many girls were looking down on the profession but now they realize that it is possible for a girl to do the job which is male-dominated.

“They are now determined to pursue it looking at me as a role model. I look forward to do more and be a motor vehicle mechanic. The project gave me a start-up tool box after graduating,” she said.

Aaron Mathuwa plies a motorcycle taxi (Kabaza) business at the trading centre. When his motorcycle breaks down, he gets it repaired by Passover.

“I do not go elsewhere to repair my motorcycle apart from Passover’s shop. I do this to encourage and support her for the bold decision she took to take up the male-dominated profession. I look forward to seeing more girls emulating her and not rush into early marriages,” he said.

Few meters away from Passover’s shop is a welding shop. Brenda Katowile runs it. She is 22 and mother of three-year-old Vanessa.

She went through welding and fabrication training under the RED Project in April 2019 and graduated on 1 October, 2019. She makes window frames and gates among others.

“I asked myself why only boys and men are involved in this job not girls and women. One day, I saw a certain woman doing the job in town and I was motivated. I developed further the interest to pursue the profession but I had no opportunity until RED Project came in.

“I am doing well in this business. I even have male customers who patronize my shop looking at my expertise on the job. Previously, they doubted my ability but now they even encourage me to do even more and work hard. Some youth ask me where I got the training,” she said.

Brenda says she is now able “to feed my family daily unlike in the past when food was a biggest challenge. I send my child to school, afford farm inputs and roofed my house with iron sheets. On a good month, I fetch about K300 thousand from the business.”

She added that the project trusted her with other four young people to train.

“They did well and TEVETA awarded them with certificates and start-up tools and they are now working as I do. They have opened up their shops,” she said.

Brenda dropped out of school in 2015 when she was in Form 2 due to similar challenges Passover encountered.

“I have now trained my husband and we are working together. I envision to develop my area by training more young people. I also want to buy more equipment so that my husband can open another shop. Save the Children gave us the welding machine, grinder, K45, 000 start-up capital and other equipment,” she said.

Agriculture and Marketing Coordinator for the Project, Damie Chinseu, says since 2021, about 300 youth have been trained in different skills.

“So far, a total of 259 young people have opened up the shops within the impact area, others are operating their shops outside the area,” he said.

Chinseu says the project focuses on the youth aged between 15 and 24 who dropped out of school.

“When we did the assessment in the impact area we discovered that there are a lot of youth who are not employed. The project is drilling them in skill development in carpentry and joinery, welding and fabrication, tailoring and fashion designing, phone repairing and motor cycle mechanics.

“We are training them through the Technical Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA) that recommended that we need to provide materials for training. We are also supposed to support them with start-up equipment and capital after they graduate. We give them money enough to pay three-month-rentals,” he said.

The project which is being funded by Save the Children Italy started on 1 July and will run up to 30 June, 2024.

Food security and livelihoods advisor for Save the Children Italy, Benedetta Ottavio, said after appreciating the project performance that “we are really satisfied with what we have seen.

“I also want to appreciate the support that the project officers have given to this project and the way they are encouraging the communities so far.

“With one more year of implementation, we hope that more positive results will be achieved. So far, it is really impressive with what the communities have achieved.”

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