In 2015, it was just a dream. The Empowerment Project, was just words on paper that Destiny Women proposed to Amilia’s Light and the process of turning the dream to reality loomed ahead. The project had to be tested, restructured and fine tuned to meet the needs to mentor, train, educate and provide job opportunities for the young women that Destiny Women serves. The partnership opened its doors in March 2016, and now, a little over a year later, girls, survivors of sex trafficking, who previously had to work in unendurable places under unbearable conditions have a safe and dignified place to work and learn vocational skills.
Our generous donors joined the girls in choosing a name for what we envisioned would be a channel of hope and light in seemingly dark lives that have been wounded in many ways. 10,000 Lights Women’s Business Centre, (10KWBC) was the chosen name. A few girls were carefully chosen to get the business off the ground, knowing these choices would be key for the future growth of the project. The Centre opened with a hair salon and boutique. It has since expanded to include a craft shop.
The girls have grown tremendously through their experiences working at the Centre. They are grateful for the opportunity to earn money to meet basic needs and support themselves. Benna joined 10KWBC in December 2016 and over the past months has grown in many ways. “Before I joined this business, I was not confident enough, but now I can talk to customers and sell and market our crafts without being shy. I thank you for this business because it has helped me to become a responsible person.” Teddy has also learned skills that already help her earn some extra income to take care of her and her 2-year-old daughter, Michelle. Over the weekends when she is not at work, Teddy is able to use her newly-learned skills to plait hair at home to earn extra income.
The Empowerment Program Task Force (EPTF) oversees and evaluates the business, it’s growth and finances, as well as the training and development for participants. The task force is comprised of Destiny Women director Miriam Enyaga, two social workers, both graduates of Destiny Women’s program, and myself, Amilia’s Light liaison. We have assessed the girls’ strengths and how to channel their energies and abilities in order to both empower the girls and grow the business. According to Miriam, “Our girls have grown, they value themselves and each other so much more than when they first joined, and they have been able to generally take better care of themselves, which is crucial for their self-esteem and empowerment.”
It has been a first year with many lessons learned and many challenges triumphed. Most importantly, the girls are hopeful and energized to continue to learn new skills and lessons that will enable them to be empowered. It's just the beginning and we have so much more to learn. We are taking many steps toward our goal of turning the dream to empower these young women, to live more dignified and purposeful lives by giving them the tools to realize their own dreams.
This weeks blog is written by Rachel Tumwine, Amilia's Light Uganda Liaison.