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The woman in charge

When Jupelo got pregnant in 2013 just after writing her final secondary school examinations, she gave up hope of furthering her education. The pregnancy was unplanned and Jupelo’s expectations of a brighter future crumbled to dust, she said. She was only 18. With the baby on the way and her education disrupted, the young woman never believed the future held anything better for her.

Jupelo gave birth to a baby boy and she soon realized that she had a tough life ahead of her. She was a single parent and raising the kid was no joke. Although her mother helped her to provide essentials for Jupelo’s child, Jupelo struggled to support the kid. By then, she was living alone in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, where life is very expensive. This only added an extra burden to her problems. To put things into perspective, Jupelo had a kid to take care of and rent and bills to settle – three things that really stressed her out. She was a young single mother facing the world alone.

To remedy the crisis she was in, and support her growing child, Jupelo worked different types of jobs, eventually ending up in a saloon. It was not exactly the profession she desired but she needed the money to survive. The job was too demanding yet her salary was too little.

“My annual pay was about USD300 (210,000 Kwacha),” she revealed, adding “with that insufficient money, I could not cope up with the rising costs of living while at the same time caring for my child. It was too hard for me.” As years went by Jupelo’s situation kept deteriorating until she finally decided to move out of the city to her home village. That decision to move was the right call, as Jupelo would soon discover. It was while she was in the village that she got wind of the news that we have a vocational training centre that provides different types of trades.

Excited, she applied for a place when we opened for the first intake of 2018. Coincidentally, this was also the year that we received funding from the European Union which saw us introducing Welding and Plumbing to the vocational training programme. Jupelo opted for plumbing and there is a very good reason she chose the course.

“I have a lot of friends who are plumbers and I admired their work. I often told myself that if there would be a chance to learn the trade, I would jump on it at all costs.” Jupelo explained. It is no surprise that when that opportunity presented itself, she seized it. That was how she found herself in the first cohort of our 2018 plumbing course. Her 6 months training started paying off when she completed her course and got employed on contract at a reputable construction company in the country, called FISD. Her team was dispatched to rehabilitate broken water taps in three different districts far away.

Within 2 months on the job, Jupelo made USD850 (around 600,000 Kwacha), almost three times her annual salary at her first workplace. She explained that it was the moment she had actual proof that vocational training really pays well. The earnings she received was enough to eliminate her initial financial woes. Jupelo used part of the money to purchase a plot where she is planning to build her own house and other houses to let out.

“I want to create something that would give me extra income besides my job,” she beamed. Furthermore, Jupelo said that she does not want her son to experience the problems that she passed through and her vision is to see to it that the boy gets a quality education. She has since enrolled her child at a quality private school and she can afford the fees, uniform and other school essentials. She also provides for her younger sister who recently moved in with her.

Jupelo proudly revealed that she now considers herself financially independent because she can afford whatever she wants – something which she could simply fantasize three years ago.

Jupelo’s job performance impressed her superiors so much that when her contract ended, she was recruited as full-time staff. Most importantly, she has become a celebrated role model to fellow girls. Actually, one of her neighbours was so inspired by Jupelo’s sudden financial transformation that the girl dumped a diploma programme she was pursuing to join plumbing too. The girl has just completed her training in the final cohort of our 2018 intake.

“I am humbled that I inspired someone to follow my footsteps. I want my story to encourage even more girls to see the benefits of vocational trades. Girls should not look down upon themselves. They can be more than they can imagine.” Jupelo added.

Jupelo’s big dream is to open a plumbing hardware shop to supply plumbing equipment and services at Dzaleka. She said that there is no plumbing shop at Dzaleka, which is a big challenge to plumbers in the area. Jupelo wants to help fellow plumbers by providing a one-stop plumbing shop right in their vicinity.

This project is funded by the European Union.