A better life for Birago under the ICI apprenticeship programme
In 2017, older children from cocoa-growing communities were supported by the International Cocoa Initiative through apprenticeships as part of its Community Development Programme. These teenagers were supported to gain skills to help them in the future and reduce their risk of undertaking hazardous tasks on cocoa farms. Among them were girls, one of these girls was Augustina Birago. ICI caught up with Birago in 2020 to learn about her progress and her future aspirations upon her graduation.
At 17 years of age, Birago was just a Junior High School graduate when she was bonded to her mother’s friend who was a hairstylist at Kumso, one of the towns close to their community. The intention was for the woman to train Birago in hairdressing in exchange for her help with household chores. But Birago ended up on the streets selling for this woman instead of learning the trade. She returned to her parents with the hope that another opportunity would open up for her to learn under more favourable circumstances.
Fortunately, Birago was able to enroll in hairdressing training under the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) apprenticeship programme. Today, Birago is a thriving adult who is confident of the future ahead of her. She is a self-confident and self-assured young woman.
“I am really grateful I took advantage of the apprenticeship programme to learn hairstyling. I can see a lot of improvement in my life. I will be graduating from the training latest by December 2021. I can’t wait to open my hair salon.”
From selling in the streets to styling hair in the salon
Birago sees a vast difference between her current training and the one she was previously engaged in.
“There is a big difference between the apprenticeship programme sponsored by ICI and the one my mother signed me onto with her friend. Where as I was forced by my trainer to sell on the streets and prevented from coming to the shop in my first apprenticeship at Kumsu, here, the trainer wants me to learn. She takes her time to explain things to me which has helped me to know and understand the benefits of being a hairstylist. I can wash, style and braid hair as well as fix weaves and sew wig caps.”
Birago also tells us how her participation in the apprenticeship programmeme has helped her within the last two years. The programme helped her to develop a savings mentality which has immensely benefitted herself and her family.
“For first year of our training, ICI supported us with monthly stipends as part of the support package. I was able to save some money out of this allowance with one of the banks in Mankraso. That money helped my family get out of a difficult situation last year. I have no idea where my family and I would have been without the money from these savings. My training could have even come to an end if not for the fact that I had this money set aside for emergencies and things like that.”
Making it work
Regardless of how well the children supported in apprenticeship learn their respective trades, the training will be of no service to them if they do not put their skills to use. Birago, during the interview, gave us some insight into her dreams and aspirations for the next two years as she pushes herself to rebuild her savings.
“Even though ICI supplied me with all the equipment I needed to be a successful hairstylist when I was enrolled into the training, I was privileged to have access to the equipment of my trainer. This means, I have new equipment to start my own salon. Now all I need to do will be to get a shop and a good location. In order to achieve this, I have started savingfrom the monthly allowance my parents gives me. I started this in August, 2019. I hope by December 2021, I would have made enough money from my savings to cover the costs of renting the land and the shop I am looking forward to getting.” Birago stated.
Birago has great plans after she graduates from the training in 2021. Aside from saving towards getting her own shop and keeping the equipment she has in good condition, she is also studying the market to determine the best place to start her business. And she seems to have settled on some.
“I have realised Mankraso is choked with hair salons so I wouldn’t want to start a business there. Mehame will also not be a good place because people are not willing to pay for my services. I need to support myself and my family with my work. I plan to set up my shop either at Abuakwa or Tanoso. I have yet to know how much I will need to lease a piece of land and build a shop but I have started saving towards it.”
The apprenticeship programme, has given Birago hope that her life will be better. With this hope comes the ability for Birago to create a better life for herself and her family.