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Moving from marginalization through apprenticeships

An ILO project in Zimbabwe is helping improve the quality of apprenticeships in the informal economy. The programme helps young people, particularly those living with disability, find decent work and escape the vicious circle of marginalization and poverty.

Feature | 04 April 2014
MUTARE, Zimbabwe (ILO News) – Annisa Matandike, 30, used to think she had limited options in life and that discrimination would marginalize her because she lives with albinism. But she is now well on her way to realizing her lifelong dream of setting up her own catering business.

Like in many other countries, perceptions, discrimination and structural barriers make it hard to for a person living with albinism to earn an income and to take their place in society. Albinism is a condition that causes visual impairment ranging from low vision to blindness as well as skin sensitivity and skin damage.

Last year, Matandike enrolled in the ILO programme’s Quality improvements in Informal Apprenticeship (QiA) in the informal economy project, and followed a two-week orientation course for Restaurant Management and Confectionary at a vocational training centre. At the end of the orientation training, participants were placed as apprentices in restaurants.

Matandike is now an apprentice at “Granny’s Kitchen,” a restaurant in the central business district of the Zimbabwean city of Mutare.

“I can now prepare three-course meals, undertake portion control at ease, as well as construct meat pies and other confectionary products. All these things seemed like an elusive dream prior to my training,” she says.

Learning by doing

The programme builds on the traditional apprenticeship system, widely practiced in Zimbabwe, where out-of-school youth attach themselves to skilled master craft persons to learn a trade through on-the-job training and workshop experience.

”I was pleasantly surprised to find two other people with disability in my group at the training centre,” she said. “It is common knowledge that most people want to be associated with only able-bodied people but the QIA programme exceeded my expectations.” Matandike believes the experience will go a long way to show the community that young people with disability can live productive lives.

Youth unemployment is high in Zimbabwe and the challenges faced by young people with some form of disability are particularly acute. Perceptions and structural barriers make it even harder for persons living with disability to gain incomes and to take their place in society.

The comparatively few persons with disabilities who are economically active often work in the informal economy, earn less than their non-disabled counterparts and face precarious working conditions. In order to address this problem, the Government of Zimbabwe and the ILO are targeting the inclusion of persons with disability to enhance their skills for employability.

The Skills for Youth Employment and Rural Development Programme is a five-year partnership between the ILO and the Danish Africa Commission that supports the social partners in Zimbabwe. It aims to strengthen skills development systems that improve employability, promote access to employment opportunities and increase incomes for inclusive and sustainable growth.

By the end of 2013 the number of beneficiaries who are in employment, either wage-employed or gainfully self-employed, or who have increased their income was approximately 10.000 people. Ultimo 2015 the programme is expected to have reached more than 15.000 people, including more than 7000 apprentices and Master Craftspersons.