Lucy sews her way to independence

Lucy Amanikor grew up in Kakuma. She quit school early. Her parents could not pay the school fees, so she sold baked goods on the streets of Kakuma. One day she heard about the Skills for Life project, which is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and implemented by Swisscontact. She received coaching and professional guidance, and after some time she decided to become a seamstress. She completed training from November 2016 to April 2017. She was optimistic and believed in herself. “I knew that if I give my best I will be successful. I love everything about tailoring. It gives me secure income and I always have enough work. I sew both women’s and men’s clothing, and I also make repairs.”

Lucy has also managed to occupy a specific market niche: “I’m the only one sewing a special kind of tunic needed by a religious group in town.” Since the start of her training, Lucy and her classmates have founded their own savings group. Her savings improved and in May 2018, she bought a sewing machine for CHF 230.

“I work in the open. That was a strategic decision. In this way, I can talk to clients who do not want to walk further into the market. When the weather is bad, I continue my work in the corridor of a nearby building,” Lucy remarks. “I believe that my talkative personality, quality work, and position in the market gets me more clients. I work hard to fulfil my clients’ expectations,” she adds. Today, Lucy is 25 years old and has four children. When orders are low, Lucy earns about CHF 50 a month. In a good month with a lot of orders, she can earn twice as much.

Lucy’s business continues to thrive, even during the pandemic. She has won numerous orders from international organisations to make face masks. “I’m selling facemasks to the community and to organisations. With just one order, I was able to make CHF 975.”

Lucy plans to set up a permanent stall at the front of the market and has already bought materials for that purpose. Once construction is complete, she will invest in a variety of fabrics, purchase an electric sewing machine, and hire employees of her own.


How to make a tunic

Lucy takes us through the process of creating one of her tunics.

  • Step 1: Take the customer’s measurements. The traditional tunic is usually worn long, below the knees and above the ankles.
  • Step 2: Choose the fabric. The tunic is often made in different but plain colours without decorations.
  • Step 3: Mark and cut the fabric.
  • Step 4: Sew darts on the material to provide shaping. Include the darts for the button or the zipper.
  • Step 5: Finalise the sewing.
  • Step 6: Prepare the tunic for the customer. Finish off by ironing the tunic down and show it to the client.

As part of the package, the tunic comes with a matching custom-made scarf which is worn on the head and is the same colour as the main item.

Cakes and scones for a better life 
Kamal fled Sudan for Kenya in 2016 due to political unrest. Since then, the 32-year-old has been living in the Kakuma refugee camp. He learned about the Skills for Life project through a sensitisation campaign and settled on baking as his trade of choice since he wanted to have a marketable skill when he returned to his homeland. In South Sudan, there aren’t many bakeries nor a wide variety to select from. Sudanese bread is the most common. The Skills for Life project trained Kamal and 12 other group members for three months. They learnt how to bake a wide range of products, including different types of cakes, tea scones, and Congolese mandazi (fried bread).