Ending the cycle of poverty: Imparting resilience skills to the youth

Monday 1 July 2019

Mariam Mohammed Sheikh, 41 at her workshop in Mandera County, North Eastern Kenya

by Florence Dzame - Communications and Campaigns Manager

Holding a timber cutter Mariam Mohammed Sheikh, 41, works industriously steadily cutting planks of wood for a new desk. Mariam a mother of 3 boys is a carpenter; an uncommon trade for a woman in Mandera County. Mandera is located in North Eastern Kenya and borders Somalia and Ethiopia. The community is made up of Somali Muslims and is patriarchal where men predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authoritysocial privilege and control of property. Women usually take on roles of looking after children and working in the home.

“The community was shocked when I started my workshop, but I see carpentry as a unique business since there is no other workshop in town,” said Mariam. Her husband who was at first against her practicing as a carpenter is now her biggest fan. “He saw that it improved our income and now supports me by buying machines and timber for the business.”

According to the County Integrated Development Plan 2016, Mandera has an unemployment rate of 69% and youth form the bulk of the unemployed.

Mariam Mohammed Sheikh, 41 at her workshop in Mandera County, North Eastern Kenya

Mariam is a host trainer for the Enterprise Based Technical Vocational Education and Training (EBTVET) programme. EBTVET training targets youth and also vulnerable disadvantaged women- so that they can use the skills to earn an income to provide for their children. Mariam who was trained in carpentry and hairdressing also benefitted from being networked with the construction business and schools where she provides furniture. As a host trainer, she offers training, mentorship and also an attachment opportunity for the graduates in her workshop. To meet the growing demand in her business Mariam retains her trainees to work for her. She has trained 12 youths in carpentry to date. Her craft has enabled her to be independent and to earn a living.

“I am happy that I can now provide for my children and home,” said Mariam.

Save the Children in partnership with the County government of Mandera piloted the EBTVET project from March 2016 to December 2018. The project offers 6 months of intensive trainings combining both classwork and apprenticeship. The trainings comprises of 16 courses that vary from carpentry, masonry, motor vehicle mechanics, tailoring and dressmaking. Over 600 youth have benefitted from the trainings to date.

“The EBTVET training means that the community can become resilient to the drought and stop over reliance on pastoralism. The youth are gaining useful skills that has enabled them to earn a living,” said James Kabau Save the Children TVET Coordinator.

James adds that gender equity is a big part of the trainings, and this has opened an opportunity for women to work, and earn an income to take care of their children and families.

“We are ending the cycle of poverty and imparting resilience skills to the youth,” he said.

Imparting vocational skills to the youth will play an important role in driving economic development by stimulating and sustaining high productive growth, and boosting employment opportunities for semi-skilled labour contributing to the Vision 2030, the Kenya Industrial Transformation Programme (KITP) and the Country’s Big 4 Agenda.

Mariam Mohammed Sheikh, 41 at her workshop in Mandera County, North Eastern Kenya