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Mend dramatically improved the quality of life for women in Gulu, Uganda, who had been directly affected by the LRA conflict. This social enterprise produced stylish, high-quality bags while providing advanced training in tailoring, finance, and personal development to the women it supported. Our Mend seamstresses are now not only economically stable, but have been able to invest in a sustainable future, start their own businesses and growing as leaders within their families and communities.

Background

The seamstresses supported by Mend were all directly affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict. Many were forced to become child soldiers or wives to LRA rebel commanders. These women were lucky enough to escape, often with children of their own, but after returning home, were ostracized due to their former affiliation with the rebels. Taken captive at a tender age, many lacked a basic education and upon their escape from the LRA, were taken to rehabilitation centers where they received three months of counseling and basic training in tailoring. With a skill for which an already flooded market exists, many were left without the means to support themselves and their children. In order to respond to this need and take advantage of the skills that these women already had, we developed the Mend program.

Long term financial independence

The long-term impact of Mend is sustainable financial independence for those it supported. Throughout their involvement in the program, Mend seamstresses received advanced training from a master tailor in Gulu. They were trained to produce high quality bags using a variety of materials, which are currently sold internationally. The proceeds of these sales benefit Invisible Children and for the duration of the program provided Mend seamstresses with a steady source of income. By providing these seamstresses with a more marketable and economically beneficial outlet for their skills, Mend vastly improved the livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable women in northern Uganda. Over time, the seamstresses significantly improved in skill, versatility, and confidence.

Statistics

22 seamstresses graduated from the program

140 dependents benefited

9,701 bags produced

Through education and counseling, Mend also emphasized building a positive life for the seamstresses outside of work and employed a full-time Ugandan social worker who had significant experience with post-conflict trauma cases. Sessions with Mend’s social worker provided psychosocial support and counseling to the seamstresses and their families. Seamstresses left the program with an understanding of topics such as safe health practices, child health, family planning, gender-based violence and coping with psychosocial trauma.

Graduates of the Mend program also participated in weekly Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) meetings that focused on reading, writing and numeracy in their local language, Luo. Additionally, the seamstresses saved, borrowed and lent money together as part of our Village Savings and Loan (VSLA) program.

Perhaps the most striking achievement of the program is that all of the seamstresses received training to assist in developing sustainable income generating activities (IGAs) outside of their work at Mend. Because of this, they are now participating in their own income generating activities, fully independent of the program. Through their involvement in Mend, many of the seamstresses have been able to invest in their own education and the education of their children, purchase livestock, build homes, and start their own small businesses.

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