Who is Ms. Afi? She's one of our newest team members in Togo! She joined us in May of 2020 as a seamstress, and we've been so lucky to have her. At S H E, Afi is known for holding the quiet wisdom of many women. She's resilient, honest, and incredibly inspiring. Here's how she's telling her story!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Before I started working at S H E, I went through many trials. My parents did not send me to school even though I wanted more than anything to go. The reason was that they wanted me to stay at home to do housework and help support my little brothers.
At one point, I decided I was going to learn to sew, and it was by my will-power that I was able to do convince my parents to allow me to do it. In order to do the training, I had to leave my home village and move to Notsé to learn to sew. The apprenticeship period was really tough because I didn't have anyone to support me.
I used to go to the market on Saturdays to help women sell items so I could have money for food. During my apprenticeship, I had my children and my suffering increased. After the birth of my second child, my husband abandoned me and I was responsible for all of the household expenses.
I was able to finish my apprenticeship, but I had no way to set up a workshop. So I started trying many things to earn an income like selling food in the market, helping other business owners with their work, but nothing was working. I was forced to move back to my home village, and my situation got worse and worse and worse. I was exhausted and thought that there was no more hope in my life.
How did you come to work at S H E?
One day I was sitting in my community when I heard that there was an NGO recruiting seamstresses like me. I immediately rushed to submit my files to the Director, Francoise. And to my surprise, I was accepted to S H E as a seamtress the next week.
The first few months were a difficult adjustment because it was sewing like I hadn't experienced before. Normally, when we learn sewing in our apprenticeships, we learn how to drape fabric and to make custom apparel for clients. We don't use patterns, we measure each person and make an outfit for them specifically. So I was surprised to see what it looks like to work in a factory. I had to adjust to working with patterns and different work stations, but over time I got used to the process and comfortable with the quality standards of S H E.
What's your favorite part about working at S H E?
Now, I can shout out loud that S H E has changed my life in many ways. With my job at S H E, I manage to feed myself and my children even though I am the only income earner of the family. I also am learning to read and write through the literacy courses that S H E provides to us for free during our work week. I can now sign my name on my paychecks, and that feels good.
My health has also improved. When I started working at S H E, I was struggling to complete a full day of work because I have suffered from a health condition for a long time. They helped me go to the hospital and get the treatment I've needed for many years. And I'm no longer having health issues.
Every day I tell people about all the things I'm learning at S H E and all of the new skills I've gained in sewing. It's just so fun.
You are an inspiration to all of us. What advice would you share with girls and women?
To my sisters and our daughters, I would like to say, take control of your lives and take your studies very seriously. Your education will pay better than anything. An educated woman is an asset for the development of her community.