My name is Tracy and I’m 20. My father is a farmer and I’m the youngest of 9 children.
My parents didn’t value education, especially for girls, and only sent me to school until grade 2. My other sisters dropped out of school at different levels of primary school due to child marriage.
I was enrolled into Plan International’s sponsorship programme when I was 8. This allowed me to carry on at school, although my father wanted me to stop at the end of primary school.
I finished my education and manged to pass 3 subjects which is not enough to continue to further education.
After that I stayed at home herding cattle and doing household chores. I am very grateful to my mother who didn’t allow me to cross illegally into South Africa.
During a community meeting, a golden opportunity presented itself. I learned about an economic empowerment project run by Plan International designed to improve women’s literacy, numeracy, vocational skills and business knowledge.
Women should learn skills so they become empowered.
I was selected as one of 25 young women to do the month-long dress making course.
After the training I was able to secure a work placement at a children’s home. I was able to pick things up very quickly and the hands-on experience I gained boosted my confidence.
After the work placement, I enrolled onto the entrepreneurship skills training as part of Plan International’s economic empowerment project. I learned how to set up and develop my own business. I was also trained in the village savings and loans model to generate income and develop my business.
I successfully completed the course and gained a certificate that is recognised in my country as well as South Africa and Botswana. However, I quickly realised the chances of getting a formal job were very limited due to the economy in our country. With the money I borrowed from my village savings and loans group, I bought a second-hand sewing machine.
Making a profit
I am now at full throttle, running my own business that specialises in making African clothing as well as school and church uniforms. In a good month I can make a profit of around $100 (€90).
In April this year I was part of a delegation sponsored by Plan International to attend the annual Zimbabwe International trade fair. At the fair I interacted with other entrepreneurs and learned more about managing a business.
in 5 years from now I want to be a prominent fashion designer.
Since starting my own business, I have mentored 5 dress making students who needed work placements so they could complete their courses.
I feel as though I am now equipped with skills nobody can take away from me and have become a role model in my community for girls and young women. The training I have received has encouraged me to believe in myself and can overcome any obstacles I might face.
With the money I earn, I can buy food for my family and the tablets my mother needs to manage diabetes. I also pay for my sister’s children to go to school.
Dream big for a better future
I am currently studying to retake exams I failed at school. I am planning to take a garment making trade test so I can get a higher qualification than I currently have.
As an entrepreneur, I have learned to dream big so in 5 years from now I want to be a prominent fashion designer. I have also started rearing chickens and want to expand that business.
My advice to other young people is that you should make the most of any vocational training courses and they can lead to many opportunities. Women should learn skills so they become empowered.