The young women of Saint Camille: a story of overcoming

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When it comes to being economically self-sufficient, many women who suffer from NTDs do not have the resources to re-establish themselves in society once they have recovered from the disease. The young women of Saint Camille are on their way to break down these barriers.

In many African countries, women are the most exposed to poverty and the lack of opportunities. In Benin, close to 95% of women are self-employed, i.e. they work for themselves on an informal basis, without an official or regular source of income.

Furthermore, just one in ten women have access to credit or finance from banks or financial institutions through which to fund their businesses. This enormous barrier makes it difficult for them to be independent and to control their own destiny. Often these women depend on their husbands or on other male members of their family to subsist, and they are exposed to many forms of violence.

Employment for the young women of Saint Camille affected by NTDs

The Saint Camille de Davougon Hospital is in Benin, some 40 kilometres from the border with Togo. This large healthcare complex treats, among others, persons suffering from NTDs and their relatives.

Around 60 young and adolescent girls live there – some of them suffering from an NTD such as Buruli ulcer – and their future is uncertain. From 2003, and through a project in collaboration with Cáritas, we have been supporting the Davougon Female Centre, where adolescents and young women who are orphaned or who have been abandoned there receive help with their schooling and professional training. The only option these girls have to make a life for themselves and be self-sufficient is to learn a trade – to train.

How does the training programme work?

Together with social workers and professionals from trades such as dressmaking, hairdressing, or boilermaking, we draw up a social and professional integration plan for each young woman. Eugénie Adjogboto is a dressmaking teacher and knows well the reality of the centre because she was a student there before becoming a teacher. ‘I was at the centre and learnt to sew. I obtained my seamstress diploma in 1997 and want to share this trade with the young women. Currently we have 22 women in training through different modules: dressmaking, hem-sewing, buttonholing… By showing them how to sew we hope to offer them a better future. We do everything possible so that in the end they can open their own shop and earn a living.’

At the Saint Camille de Davougon Female Centre we support young women to get their seamstress, boilermaker, or hairdresser qualification. A trade that will allow them to work in the future and be independent. We accompany them so they can emerge from oblivion.

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Mikel Edeso
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