Sewing Project Sponsored in Zambia
Life is never easy for a single mom. But being a single mom with AIDS in Zambia, Africa is extremely difficult. Eliness Nzima knows all about it.
In her early thirties, Eliness is a trained tailor but has not managed to procure work. Jobs are always very difficult to come by in Zambia. But she feels her open acknowledgement of AIDS is a deterrent to future employers. The stigma of AIDS is truly very strong in Zambia. Far too many people, even very well educated ones, will not go for testing for fear of the results. Many lose their jobs, their friends, their families when they openly declare they are positive.
AIDS has severely devasted Eliness’ family. Two of her sisters have already died of AIDS (her last sister died a few months ago of pneumonia and meningitis). Eliness is passionate about fighting the disease. She is often at the local AIDS counselling center encouraging others in their fight against the disease. She wrestles with them to go for testing to know their status so they can save their lives and that of others.
When I met Eliness she had no way of earning an income. Living with her mother, sister and daughter, she was anxious to find employment. I asked her to set up a business plan for a tailoring business. The Cecil Lake WI was quick to provide the loan of Cdn $500.00 needed to purchase a sewing machine, an overlock machine, sewing materials and fabric to start on the first projects. Eliness had been strongly recommended to me by a long standing friend who worked with women’s community development projects and had been supporting Eliness with training and counsel for some years.
The Chimwemwe sewing business is operated by Eliness and her friend Alibess. Mrs. Nsama, a mature and accomplished tailor, helps them with the sewing. Joan, a retired social worker and community development worker, is their mentor for the overall project. Both women keep them accountable. As the loan is repaid, it will be passed on to other women who are in similar situations.
The girls began by sewing curtains, which they felt was a viable enterprise. Recently I received an email from Eliness, saying, “Business is a bit slow though we sold. We’ve been delayed by one customer though she has promised by Friday”. Customers who delay payment are sadly a very normal part of doing business in Zambia. Without payment from customers it is difficult to buy new materials.
But Eliness is confident. The loan has given her hope and opportunity. Even if the start is rocky and slow, she will not let herself be discouraged. “I now wake up in the middle of the night not because there is no food in the house but because I am happy I can work”.
Submitted by Marianne Stamm (annual short term worker with small farmers and women in Zambia), sister of Nor’ Pioneer Women’s Institute Member.
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