This week's Women of S H E spotlight is Akoss, a talented seamstress in the S H E cooperative located in the village of Kpové. She joined our team in September of 2021, and her natural leadership and sewing talents have shined bright ever since. This week, she's sharing her experience as a member of the S H E team.
My name is Akoss. I am a seamstress at S H E. I have three children.
Years before joining the S H E team, I learned sewing for three years but I was not able to take the final exam because my parents did not have the means to pay my contract. Being without a diploma, I met a man with whom I had 2 children. This man paid for the contract, but I had to wait 1 year before the next opportunity to take the exam.
Fortunately, I got my diploma. After 12 years of living together, my husband died of a serious illness and I had to support my children alone. Due to this situation and lack of means to open a sewing workshop, I started to work as a housekeeper in a woman's house in Lomé.
I did this job for almost 5 years believing that I would earn enough money to open a workshop, but I could not reach my goal because I had to support my first two children. This work as a domestic servant did not allow me to save money to buy the working materials. Thus, I am forced to return to the village to cultivate the land in the hope that it will solve my problems but my situation is getting worse.
I asked to help people in the fields and take money in exchange. I was constantly thinking about my financial situation and I couldn't find a solution.
How did you come to S H E?
Since my existence, I never expected to hear about S H E. I was at home one day and the Chief sent a young man to call me. He told me that an NGO called S H E, which had come from Notsé, had arrived in Kpové and was looking for seamstresses to work in a new local cooperative.
I thought it was a joke because several NGOs had been here but had not done anything concrete, so I did not trust them. When the S H E agents came to Kpové, I participated in their workshop until they fixed the date of the exams for the selection of seamstresses who could work with in the cooperative. That's when my eyes were opened little by little and I told myself that this business is serious. The day I took the exam, I participated in it and by grace, I was selected. After that I started to work at S H E.
How has your time been at S H E so far? My work at S H E is a dream. I can't express it. I can say that S H E has completely changed my life.
I had said at the beginning that I did not believe that this work could come to us in Kpové. Yet today, I have worked for almost a year at S H E. Without lying, I can say that I have saved money for the first time and bought a sewing machine and other working tools, even if it was to sew my own clothes and those of my children.
The people of this village also noticed a big change in my life. My husband who used to talk badly to me and humiliate me in front of his friends no longer does so because I no longer ask him for help before eating or buying anything for my children and myself. Instead of the quarrelling that used to go on at home when I didn't bring anything home, now there is joy and peace in my home.
I am very grateful for this work that S H E has given me.
What do you like most about your work at S H E?
AT S H E, I love my job and the work process. Since I started working as a seamstress, there were things I didn't know, but when I came to S H E, I learned a lot of things. For example, I never worked with the bosses but I do at S H E. In this NGO, the work is relaxed, there is no discrimination in the work. S H E does not make any difference between us. Our salaries are paid on time. There is not a month that S H E has not paid our salaries. I am very proud of that.
What I like most is the patience and tolerance that S H E has towards its employees. Sewing is a job that I like so much and I am very proud of the orders that we receive and that we manage to do in time. I am very interested in the advice and comments that the people in charge give us, because the show us a lot of respect and kindness. I am love the work ethic and culture of S H E.
Why is S H E special for women?
In my opinion, S H E is special because it gives employment to women, it gives happiness to women and it empowers women. It is special because it creates a very confident work environment without discrimination, without hatred, without looking at our conditions and appearances.
S H E is a place of empowerment because it only thinks about the well-being of women and seeks their evolution at all costs. She rejects the assumption that women do not have the capacity to work or to be financially independent. She wants women to take their destiny into their own hands and find the solution to their problems by all means.
How do you define empowerment for women?
To me, empowerment is being able to make your own decisions, to spend without anyone asking you to account for it.
A self-reliant person is one who works and does not ask for anything from anyone but is able to do whatever she wants. An autonomous woman does not wait for her husband to give her money before cooking or paying for her clothes.