Mwila, 19-year-old sponsored child, can now afford a better future, thanks to her newly acquired sewing skills
25 January 2022 Minute read

Stitching her own future

Mwila is empowered to finish her education - and not become a child bride

What if a teenage girl could learn vital skills for life?

What if she was empowered to finish her education instead of becoming a young bride? 

Mwila, in Zambia, was only 19 years old when she decided that there was little to hope for in her future. The COVID-19 pandemic had pushed her family even deeper into poverty and students like her out of school, and Mwila could see only one path left to follow.

“I was planning on getting married because I did not see any future for me, even if I went back to school, because I did not know where funds to pay for [college] would come from,” says Mwila. “I thought marrying would be easier.”

A young woman and her mother working together at a sewing machine
Mwila, 19, and her mother, Diane, sew a dress together

Future on a knife edge

Mwila isn’t alone. One in every three girls in Zambia marry before their 18th birthday, and Mwila’s province in the east has the highest rates of child marriage in the country.

This means many girls like Mwila have children when they are still children themselves. Many of these young mothers die in childbirth, many babies die before they are five, and many families are trapped in an ongoing cycle of poverty.

Right now, millions of girls like Mwila stand at this crossroad, with their futures on a knife edge. But there is hope on their horizon. 

Girls, boys and parents in Mwila’s community are studying life skills training and finding support through the Dare to Discover project, funded by World Vision child sponsors. The project is designed to help adolescents consider their future choices, plan a path forward, and gain essential skills to earn a living as adults.

19-year-old sponsored child Mwila showing off a dress she stitched with African patterned fabric, thanks to the skill training she received.
Mwila admires one of her latest creations

Believing you can break free from poverty for good...

...is often the first step to making it happen.

"In the past, we noticed that a lot of young people gave up on school and gave in to substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviours because they had nothing to look forward to,” says World Vision’s Morris Mushibwe, who coordinates the training.

"However, since we started the Dare to Discover workshops for adolescents, we have come to see the difference. The youths in this community now realise that they can be more. Some have ventured into businesses. Others are going back to school, and some are picking up livelihood skills," he says.

Mwila was one of the teenagers who took part in the workshops and learnt to sew clothing. But more importantly, she realised she could create a life beyond early marriage and early motherhood.

"The training changed my life. The lessons gave me the courage to believe I could do more with my life."

Mwila now uses her mother's sewing machine to make clothes to sell. She uses the income to help support her family – and to fund her education.

"When I make clothes and sell them, I use part of the money to help my family at home when there is no food. But I also save some of the money so that I can go to school to sit my exams,” says Mwila.

Mwila plans of becoming a nurse. It’s a dream she says she’s sewing together one outfit at a time.

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