Sewing training a success!
At Self-Help, we’re all about helping people help themselves. So after we heard from the girls that they definitely liked the Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits and were using them, and then heard from their mothers and sisters that they wanted kits too, we knew it was time to put our sustainability plan into action. We couldn’t have the women dependent on us; they needed to be able to make the kits themselves.
So last month, Self-Help Ghana hosted a workshop to teach seamstresses in Ghana how to sew the Days for Girls kits for themselves! The women were eager to learn and paid very close attention every step of the way. Barb Dahlby and Gail Stelmacher were the skilled seamstresses who volunteered to travel to Ghana to teach the women. Here are Gail’s reflections from the workshop:
My teaching day had arrived! We traveled to the SHI training center in Nkwakrom for the sewing workshop. It was a long day today, but rewarding. Barb and I met 9 lovely ladies who are seamstress and expressed a desire to learn how to make the Days for Girls sanitary kits.
Lucy, Sara, Dinah, Elizabeth, Olivia, Helena, Hadjara, Sharifa, and Vivian travel from the villages of Kwaso, Adegya, Worapong, Bedaabour, and Nerebehi, carrying their sewing machines and “knitting machines” (sergers) on their heads and babies on their backs. Seven of the ladies were current members or graduates of Self-Help’s micro-credit program, and two were apprentices who work at Madam Sara’s shop.
The idea was that we would teach these ladies the basic steps in of making the kits. They would then decide if they would be interested in obtaining further instruction so they could make it one of their micro-credit businesses. I had never taught anyone, other than my two boys, how to sew, so I was a little nervous. But then, these ladies are pros at using a sewing machine. The sewing machines were hand crank machines except for one powered by electricity. I was amazed at how fast and accurate the women could sew on the hand crank machines.
Barb and I worked together to tag team the explanation of the how the kit is used and then how to make them. The ladies listened closely as Victoria, Self-Help’s program coordinator in Ghana, translated into Twi. One lady who could speak English, Olivia, asked very good questions along the way.
The women were very open to learning. Every now and then I would have to have them re-do a piece and do it over to ensure it was right, and they did so enthusiastically. Even though most of them did not understand English, I felt I had no trouble helping them learn. It was exciting when they would finish a part correctly and I would give them a smile and two thumbs up. The look of pride was written all over their faces.
After we did the first run through of a shield, Victoria had us give them more fabric and then they were timed to see if they could correctly make a shield without being told how. I was totally impressed. Only one lady needed a very little guidance. Then I “judged” them and the best 3 got prizes! Very cool.
I think they all learned a lot and truly appreciated the lesson. I know it made me feel good to know I could use a God given talent that I have had all my life to help in just this little way.
This transfer of knowledge is both helping the women expand their existing sewing operations by creating this new product that’s already in demand, and ensuring that these innovative reusable feminine hygiene kits are available for all women who need them without depending on us to bring the kits over to them.
Thank you for your support, which is financing the business expansion loans for the seamstresses who attended this workshop to purchase materials and surgers so they can create high quality reusable feminine hygiene products. By supporting their businesses, you are ensuring that the women and girls in even remote and rural villages in Ghana can access affordable reusable sanitary kits so they can stay in school and attend to their families' needs every day of the month!
Trainees are hanging on Gail's every stitch
Diana learns to make a shield
Victoria translates the next instructions
Helena shows off her handiwork
Nora (L) and Gail (R) present Olivia with a prize