The Splendid Sewing School
The sewing machines are here! Local youth were thrilled as we opened the doors of the Splendid Sewing School, giving economically deprived youth the opportunity to equip themselves with sewing skills and nurture their creativity to produce unique, affordable, much-needed items for impoverished communities.
How Can a Sewing School Help?
Over a third of the Liberian population is made up of young people aged 15-35, and over one-third of this sector is unemployed or underemployed. 80% of working young people are informally employed, 90% are irregularly employed, and 80% of all employed young people earn less than the average wage. This means that young people face high levels of job insecurity.
The high rate of poverty in Liberia has stifled development; much of the population does not have access to a good education, which hinders their career potential. Additionally, healthcare, housing, food and the necessities of life are unaffordable. These issues have resulted in a low life expectancy (62 years) and a very low quality of life, and have led to Liberia’s current ranking of 181 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index.
For young people, poverty and lack of opportunity have led to a number of challenges: teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation, hunger, deprivation, prostitution, and the threat of HIV/AIDS. It has also spawned high levels of criminal activity (armed robberies and gender-based violence).
These are not the lives Liberian young people want to be living. They are desperate to learn marketable skills that will alleviate their poverty and provide job opportunities and a reasonable income.
Ri’ayah’s Splendid Sewing School is a scalable strategy with wide-reaching impact; it goes beyond the individual and leads to the empowerment and economic development of communities. The Splendid Sewing School is one of our goals that has now become a reality, albeit a work in progress.
A Sewing School Is So Much More
Our sewing school will do far more than just equip young people with sewing skills; it will nurture their creativity to produce unique, affordable items for impoverished communities and provide a regular income.
Ri’ayah’s Splendid Sewing School will:
- Develop young people’s creativity by supporting them as they design and produce Liberian-inspired, affordable school bags that showcase Liberia’s culture while providing poor children with a necessary school item.
- Teach young people how to make school uniforms, thus providing affordable uniforms so more students can attend school.
- Create regular income for young people living in poverty.
Students Learn Sewing and Business
Students will learn how to make uniforms for local schools. Once trained, they will be supervised as they begin making uniforms. Each completed uniform will be inspected and, once deemed fit for sale, sold at an affordable price to poor families.
Besides teaching students to sew, the sewing school focuses on marketing and business skills. Students are individually mentored to help them understand their customers through research, learn how to conduct a competitor analysis, and develop marketing campaigns to reach their customers. Working together, students can implement what they’ve learnt to create their first collection of bags, market them and sell them. Money made from sales will be split between students (their salary) and the school.
Start Small, Think Big
We encourage students to develop a strategy for growth once they have established their sewing skills. They are encouraged to diversify, and design and produce more items, but they must be affordable and address a societal need in Liberia. Their growth will include selling their products to other communities both in Liberia and internationally, and to explore online sales.
The sewing school solution is scalable, as students can expand their product offering and customer base, and eventually open their own school/business. Ri’ayah’s goal is to expand to accommodate more students, open similar schools across Liberia, and eventually build a sewing factory with high production capacity. Our idea is innovative and our designs will be Liberian-inspired. We will utilize the creativity of young people to develop unique products, which will help them become financially independent while at the same time making it possible for the school to reach more students.