“Men cannot do what I am doing!”

Ester Karikoga, a young mother of two from the high density suburb Glen View in Harare, was left by her husband and found herself being a struggling single mother with no income:

News | 10 April 2014
Contact(s): ILO Harare Country Office, Block 8 Arundel Office Park, Norfolk Road, Mt Pleasant, Harare. Tel +263 4 369805-12, Email harare@ilo.org
“Life was very difficult because I was living from assistance given to me by family and friends. I wasn’t able to look after myself because I didn’t have money. So if I needed anything I would go and ask my relatives for instance for school fees for my children and money to pay rent so this was very difficult.”

In 2012 she was able to join a carpenter course at St Peters Vocational Training Centre, through the ILO Skills for Youth Employment and Rural Development programme, and was after that placed as an apprentice with a Master Craftsperson for 3 months.

Informal apprenticeships are widespread and by far the most important source of skills training in Zimbabwe and most African countries. They are entrenched in local traditions and culture and follow a range of informal rules that are based on reputation and social sanctions. The programme believes that the quality of such systems can be improved through a variety of measures including access to new skills and technologies, improved training standards, provision of basic skills such as literacy and numeracy, improved access of young women to male dominated trades and improved formal recognition of skills acquired in the informal economy. The District Youth Development Officer for Glen View explains:

“In the district the project started in 2010 by recruiting more than 300 youths to start different activities in upholstery, carpentry, welding and interior decor. They took about 6 months doing the training - 3 months for the theory and 3 months for the attachments. After that, they went to their different master craftsmen and started working. Now we have managed to register about 7 companies from those youths who were trained through the ILO project. It is a blessing to High Glen to receive this support because the youths are being transformed, their lives are changing and they are managing their projects.”

Ester has since joining the programme, learnt how to build furniture and run a business. She now rents an area of the High Glen Complex, which houses carpenters and furniture makers, where she has her workshop and she sells from a shop in Guruve , which she also rents. Part of her training was about business management, customer relations and how to find markets. About the training Ester says:

“When I went for this ILO training, I learnt that one had to earn a living without having to depend on other people. So from the time that I began training, I learnt that I can make my own things and when I could do that I started getting sales. I would make something and sell it. I would make a profit and use that money to make something else. So I learned a lot. I also learnt about how to run a business and how you find customers. I learnt all that from the training.”

Ester’s Master Craftsperson Norman Nzombe has had several apprentices – the most recent being Ester and her classmate Orfeus. Norman does not get anything out of having apprentices, but he underlines that he does it because so many young people are without employment and with what he teaches them, they can learn to look after themselves.

Being a young single mother is not easy and even though she can now afford to pay her rent, school fees and put food on the table, Ester still has issues with accessing capital to grow her business. The programme link the youth to microfinance institutions for them to access loans, but the young entrepreneurs still have to fulfil the lending criteria’s of the microfinance institutions – one is that the business should have existed for one year. When Ester accesses her first loan her plan is to secure her future by increasing her production of sofas – her speciality. She says confidently:

“I can now make sofas. A lot of men are surprised by this. Sometimes they laugh at me but others encourage me. Because there are men who can not do what I am doing.”