International Women’s Day 2021: Affissa’s Story
At World Jewish Relief we know that investing in a woman’s livelihood is one of the most effective ways to strive for a better world in which human rights are realised, and women and girls can reach their potential and build independent and dignified lives.
To mark International Women’s Day, we are sharing the stories of a few women who have been through our employment programmes. Having faced immense challenges, from displacement and conflict to disasters, they have successfully built or rebuilt their livelihoods, found employment and become independent. Here is Affissa’s story:
Affissa is 18 years old and lives in Kayonza, Eastern Rwanda with her widowed mother and five siblings. Her family barely survived on her mother’s earnings from working in people’s fields, so Affissa had to drop out of school to work alongside her mum and look after her siblings.
When Affissa heard about World Jewish Relief and our partner SACCA’s Enable project, offering vocational training and support to young people in the region, she immediately signed up and enrolled on a hospitality training course. She worked incredibly hard, and describes how she learned the value of time management, planning, problem solving and communication. Last February Affissa was offered an internship at ‘Women for Women International’, an international NGO, working at their on-site restaurant. She excelled there and was confident that at the end of the internship she would either be offered a permanent job, or find work elsewhere. Her future looked bright.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 upended the lives and plans of young people across Rwanda, much like elsewhere in the world. The country went into complete lockdown last March and when the economy started to open back up in June, very few hospitality jobs were available.
Affissa decided not to sit and wait for things to get better, and immediately came up with a new plan. With support from our Enable project, she started selling fruits in the local market. This had only limited potential to make a profit, but whilst in the market she spotted another business opportunity – producing envelopes from recycled paper to sell to market traders. Using the knowledge she had gained through the project, she developed a simple business plan and started producing envelopes.
Affissa now makes a good profit each month and has even been able to employ her mother. She aims to double production in the next couple of months. Demand is high, and returning customers appreciate her timeliness. SACCA’s social workers are regularly in touch with Affissa, discussing business challenges and offering guidance. She attends bi-weekly financial clinics where she can go through her records with an accountant.
Making envelopes is just the beginning. I want to learn how to make proper, quality stationary. I am keen to employ more people. I am very grateful to everybody who contributed to my success – I promise not to let you down.