By PETER WARI
TWO men were among 25 women who graduated with certificates in basic sewing skills last Friday after a four weeks intensive training at Muruk Lodge in Mendi, Southern Highlands.
Most of those who graduated are illiterate women and widows. Living in poverty with a limited education greatly hinders these women from finding quality jobs to support their families. Some of them were often at risk of being trapped in circumstances that could dehumanise them in order to feed their family.
Lucy Yano, a mother of six from Upper Mendi in the Mendi-Munihu district decided to help the mothers and initiated the training which was funded by the Southern Highlands provincial government. The training was hailed a success and more training is now being promised to empower less privileged women in the rural areas with the valuable sewing skills so that they can earn a respectable living and support their families and community.
The training has been conducted by Yalem Nongs Tailoring in partnership with the provincial government. Yalem Nongs Tailoring is a consulting company that provides training in sewing, weaving, textile and knitting.
Yano said the project was an informal venture under the small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector similar to other projects in education, law and order, health and infrastructure.
The outcome of the project will make the mothers earn a daily income to provide food and basic necessities for their families.
“The project will empower the women with sewing skills to start their own tailoring business in the future. The women who are often poor mothers and widows have an opportunity to use their skills to rise out of poverty and work toward a promising future for themselves and their families.”
She said women were always seen as inferior and their pleas for help to their elected MPs were always looked down and priorities were given to men. She said under the leadership of Governor William Powi, he had given a second chance to the school dropouts to be enrolled at IT and life skill training schools.
Yano said Powi has now looked into the needs of the mothers and funded the training and the future looked promising as more training would be conducted under his leadership.
“My vision is, I want every household to have at least a sewing machine and every home must know how to sew. We will train the trainees to become trainers of trainers; in 10 years time or beyond, every womenfolk must know how to sew clothes and sustain their livelihood which will boost the economy of the country and make them busy and that will minimise illegal activities.”
Yano says the reason why this project is important is because it is community-oriented and family-centred and is for unfortunate ones who are not able to enter formal education.
Nason Pasel, one of the graduates, said he was fortunate to be have taken the training as men took sewing as a only woman’s job.
“I am happy that I know how to sew my own shirts, it is very interesting. It is not a woman’s trade only and it is fun cutting materials, measuring and sewing.”
He says the training has given him confidence to train others and he wants men to acquire the life skill training. He thanked the provincial government for funding the important training.
Norbert Pena, representing the provincial commerce department, said in line with the National Government’s policy on SMEs in the country, at provincial level it was the initiative of Governor Powi to boost the level of SMEs in the province and one of it is through this training programme.
In April this year, the Papua New Guinea SME master plan was launched and it reflects a growing acknowledgement that PNG needs to proactively grow sectors beyond mining and petroleum.
The plan supports the O’Neill government’s long-stated development goal of creating 300,000 new SMEs by 2030 and the Government would be committing K200 million every year to support the plan starting this year.
Trade, Commerce and Industry Minister, Richard Maru said the country cannot depend entirely on the resource sector, supporting Agriculture Minister Tommy Tomscoll’s comments that PNG has to move away from depending too much on its oil and gas resources.
Pena said the goal of creating 300,000 new SMEs by 2030 was a mammoth task and what Powi did to start empowering women at the grassroots level was vital.
He thanked Powi for responding positively to Yalem Nongs Tailoring to take programme on board in the province as it would promote the government’s policy.
Southern Highlands deputy administrator (economics and social services) Jerry David assured the graduates of a further two months’ training.
He said there was need for the training to be conducted in the five districts and the graduates would be trainers in the districts.
“This training is vital as it will have a big impact socially and economically. This training will empower church groups and youth groups to generate some income,” he said.
However the immediate problem for the graduates was they had no sewing equipments to train others.
David said the provincial government was working hard to support such vital skills training and would look into their needs when funds were available.
By PETER WARI