SEVEN young mothers have launched a mask-manufacturing business through the United States government-funded DREAMS project in Windhoek last week.
One of these young mothers, entrepreneur Dorin Gases (18) says: “This has been a life-changing experience. We can become a little bit more independent to look after our kids.”
The six remaining business partners are Imerencia Nowases (21), Monica Ipwaakena (24), Julia Elias (24), Ndapewashali Americu (20), Ester Naidila (21) and Enrica Goagoses (21).
Funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar), DREAMS is a project which aims to prevent new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women.
It stands for determined, resilient, empowered, AIDs-free, mentored and safe.
The US embassy has partnered with Project Hope, an organisation focused on mitigating the impact of HIV-AIDS in Namibia, to implement DREAMS in the country.
Through the programme, the women completed a day of training with Windhoek-based Chelsea Fashions after which they received 10 sewing machines, fabric and equipment to assist them with setting up their business.
Material was provided by the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade.
Each woman produces several masks a day, which are sold for N$20 to N$25 each.
Project Hope communications officer Lio Kariko says the women were selected for the programme based on their interest in tailoring and entrepreneurship.
“The DREAMS girls have already applied to register their business with the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (Bipa) and plan to grow and expand to sewing clothes and linen,” Kariko says.
The entrepreneurs are all non-schoolgoing young mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“We are young women with other dreams too, and this can help us afford further education which we couldn’t before,” Gases says.
Nowases says she was unable to finish her secondary schooling due to a lack of finances, but “this has been a great opportunity to learn how to sew and earn something”.
DREAMS has almost 12 000 participants and operates with partner organisations in the Khomas, Oshikoto, and Zambezi regions.
The US embassy says the project will soon be rolled out in the Oshana and Kavango East regions as well.