When she lost her job, tailoring Saved her
She sits quietly behind the manual sewing machine, her skilled hands moving back and forth on the fabric she is working on. She pauses briefly to adjust the needle and thread perched on the machine then her feet go back to pedaling the machine like a cyclist. All her concentration is deeply focused on the beautiful multi-flowered cloth which is slowly taking shape under the long sharp needle of the sewing machine. She hums a small tune as she pauses again, removes the cloth and holds it in the air with a pleased smile on her face. She is almost done and a day from now, this dress will be proudly worn by a satisfied customer, who will obviously return to have another dress, or perhaps suit, made.
This is Mervis Phiri’s tailoring shop. Mervis is married and is a mother of two kids. She is a product of our vocational training programme. Mervis completed her tailoring course in 2017. The woman’s story has a surprise twist because two years ago she was not a tailor. She was an English teacher and she had worked in the field for quite some time. So how did she land in the tailoring trade?
“I have always loved tailoring and it was my ambition to pursue that trade. In fact, my mother was a well-known tailor and she was my source of inspiration.” Mervis explained. Although she wished to study tailoring, her parents could not put her through a tailoring school because such schools were expensive. So Mervis ended up in a different field – teaching. For seven years, Mervis worked as a teacher but all the while, her ambitions of doing tailoring were still hanging in her mind. In 2016, Mervis’ friend informed her of our vocational training programme and that opened an opportunity for her to chase her tailoring dream.
When we recruited the tailoring intake for that year, Mervis was among the students. It was the break she had been looking for. The flexible timetable for the tailoring course allowed her to work and study at the same time. Mervis attended classes in the morning and went to work at noon.
Sometimes life has a way of turning towards the direction one never anticipated. Just a month after Mervis completed her course, a terrible fate awaited her. It started with her kid.
“One of my kid got hospitalized and I had to tend to him in the hospital.” Mervis explained. “I missed a couple of days from work and this did not please my superiors.” When her child was discharged from the hospital and Mervis returned to work she was in for a big surprise. She had been fired. Just like that.
“I found that they had replaced me with another teacher. When I tried to inquire about what was going on, I was told that I had been dismissed due to prolonged absence from work.” Mervis recalled. She said that it was the most painful moment of her life. Her main source of income had been cut off and this meant that Mervis’ husband would now shoulder the huge responsibility of supporting the family on his own. Mervis knew that it would be a tough job on her husband. She realized that things would get ugly.
Or would they?
The qualification Mervis attained from our vocational training programme saved the day. Hope was not lost. It was time to put her tailoring skills to good use. Mervis explained that she put together some funds and bought a sewing machine. Within the same month of losing her job, she set up a small shop at her house and that was the start of her tailoring business. It was also the beginning of her highly anticipated career in the trade. It was a slow start but before long, she began receiving multitudes of customers.
“Within long, I was back on my feet, making money. It was as if I never lost my job.” Mervis smiled “I don’t know what would have happened if I had not done tailoring.” The earnings she made from the tailoring shop helped her support her husband fend for their family. Mervis is satisfied with the new career she has taken and she is not looking forward to returning to teaching.
“This is better than teaching. I am self-employed and the best thing is that I make money everyday. I don’t have to wait for the month to end in order to get paid.” She said. Mervis speaks with such boldness because she has so far attracted a trusted customer base that seek her services. Just recently, she received an order to sew school uniforms and it is obvious that she will make sufficient profits from the job. Besides that, tailoring was a trade she had always been desiring and now that Mervis has finally reached her goal, she is not going anywhere.
And neither are we. Our vocational training programme is here to stay. We want to empower women like Mervis with a trade they can use in times of great need when all hope is almost gone.