At the age of 15, Jenepher Musana became pregnant. Although her husband later disappeared, Musana’s mother was very disappointed that her child was going to become a mother at the age of 15.
Being a young mother, Musana experienced many challenges that her aunt decided to take her to a tailoring institute, where she acquired skills for one year.
After acquiring skills in tailoring, she envisioned a world where teenage mothers did not have to suffer.
“When I see young mothers carrying babies in town, working in restaurants with their children, I remember the pain I went through. Nobody deserves to go through this kind of suffering,” says Musana.
Growing up, her dream was to become a fashion designer. Musana shares that she had to work in restuarants, where she managed to save Shs650,000. Her dream was realised in 2017 when she started with three young mothers. She rented a single room and bought two sewing machines, from where she trained teenage mothers.
Her workshop being away from from Fort Portal Town, she had to open up two outlets in town, in order to get more clients. Musana has since expanded. Today, she has 10 sewing machines, where more teenage mothers are trained in Buteebe village.
Every day, more than 20 mothers with their babies, trek about five Kilometres to learn tailoring. Majority of them are school dropouts below the age of 18. What started as a small workshop has now become the Rwenzori Young Mothers’ Skills Empowerment Uganda- a non-government organisation founded by Musana. For the the last three years, she has empowered women through offering free vocational skills.
At the workshop, Musana teaches teenage mothers how to make shirts, dresses, backpacks, shopping bags, cross bags, baby shirts, women bags, jewellery, mats and bed covers.
Musana says her organisation pays trainees part of the profits made after selling the items.
Supporting young mothers
Since 2017, a total of 18 young mothers have since completed short courses in various vocational skills and currently 22 young mothers are under training.
Some of the vocational courses offered include counselling, tailoring, weaving, among others. The courses takes six months and others stretch for one year. Upon completion, trainees are given an opportunity to continue working at the workshop.
Musana says courses are free of charge. “Our goal is to equip young mothers with vocational skills to be self reliant,” she says.
What beneficiaries say
“I decided to come here because I was not doing any productive work in my village. I have obtained skills in tailoring. When I get money, I want to buy my own sewing machine and open up my own workshop,” says Pricilla Nkwenge.
Sarah Mbabazi 18, from Buteebe village, says: “From childhood, I had a dream of being an exceptional tailor. I am happy I am training and very soon, my dream will become a reality.”
Musana says prices for her products depend on the design and the cost of the fabric. “A shirt is sold at Shs40,000, dresses go for Shs80,000, backpack at Shs40,000 and shopping bag go for Shs15,000,” she says.
I have learnt if you sacrifice yourself at one point you can achieve your dream any time also many people out there in the community need to have their mindset change like for many young mothers those who have passed into my hands they have story to tell the public”
What others say
Meddy Serunjogi, who is also a group member of the organisation says Musana’s idea has benefitted the community. “She shared with me the idea of supporting young mothers because in our community, there are many teenage mothers. Over the years, many mothers have been supported to start their own businesses through vocational skills,” says Serunjogi.