‘INTELS empowerment scheme has given Rivers women hope’
INTELS empowerment scheme has given Rivers women hope – Egbe
The Women Empowerment Programme Scheme Synergy (WEPSS) instituted by INTELS Nigeria Limited, in Onne, Rivers State, has continued to attract many women from various parts of the country. WEPSS, a corporate social responsibility initiative of the oil and gas logistics giant, trains rural women in sewing and fashion design for free. Dorothy Egbe is one of the more than 700 women that have benefitted from the scheme. She shares her experience in this interview. Excerpts:
How did you learn about WEPSS?
A girlfriend of mine, early in 2016, told me about the Women Empowerment Programme Scheme Synergy (WEPSS). She herself had undergone the training, had graduated, and was sewing clothes on a commercial scale in her shop. She wanted to know if I would be interested in the programme. I was excited and gave her the go ahead to submit my name. WEPSS caught my interest because I believe it is important for every woman in addition to getting an education, to also have a craft.
At the time, I was enrolled in a part time programme at the then Rivers State Polytechnic, now Ken Saro Wiwa Polytechnic, studying Computer Science. I was eager to learn something on the side that could also fetch me money, while I continued with my education.
Prior to our interaction, I had never heard about the programme and didn’t know any woman who had undergone the training. None of my family members too had heard about the programme. I was surprised to learn WEPSS is an initiative of INTELS Nigeria Limited because the company is known to everyone. A few days after the discussion with my friend, I received a call from her that I had been shortlisted to take a test and interview that would enable me qualify for the training programme.
On the day of the test, I went to the venue and saw that there were many women like myself, who were hoping to be enrolled into the scheme. We took an aptitude test; a lot of women were screened out through this process. The rest of us went on to the interview stage, which is a one-on-one interview. The entire process took a few days. Those of us who successfully went through the interview were then called to begin the programme in July 2016. I was really happy. Before I started the programme, I had envisioned myself as an event planner and decorator.
To jumpstart my dream, I partnered with some event planners to plan events, and also decorate the venue. I did this twice. It wasn’t until WEPSS that I discovered that I had an interest in fashion too especially as regards sewing clothes. I quickly made the switch to fashion designing, and have not looked back ever since.
What was your experience at WEPSS like?
It was great and far exceeded all my expectations. I believe it is also the same experience for all my classmates at the centre. The programme was for four months. It was essentially focused on teaching us how to sew, cut fabrics and make clothes from them. I first learned how to use a sewing machine. I did paper exercises; how to sew a paper with the machine before I was introduced to sewing fabrics. After that I learned body measurements – how to take a person’s measurements before you sew for that person. We were about 28 women in my group; most had secondary school certificates as their highest qualification. Only a few of us were university undergraduates.
At first, keeping with the classes was hectic because I had no idea what sewing entailed. Things like stepping on the treadle continuously to keep the machine sewing, learning how to make proper use of scissors while cutting, and the measuring tape. It was a struggle but by the time I was able to catch up, the classes became more enjoyable.
The trainers and supervisors at the WEPSS centre are the best. The supervisors did all they could to push us to our limits so we could give our very best. Their sole concern was how to make you understand what you were there for.
Although the trainers were more than enough, your success in the programme was dependent on your ability to keep up with the classes and assimilate the lectures as fast as you can. Not everyone could sit on the machine and sew what they are given; in every endeavour there are always winners and losers.
The centre itself is nice, spacious and conducive for learning; everything you need for the programme is provided free of charge. Every Friday, we were given an end of the week assessment, which was divided into written tests and practical. For the body measurement, it is usually a written assessment. There is a pass mark you must meet to enable you qualify for a certificate. That aside, there is a higher grade point you must also meet to qualify you for an industrial sewing machine, in addition to your certificate.
It is these weekly assessments that are calculated at the end of your training. I was the best student in my group and got an industrial sewing machine as a gift at the graduation ceremony. We were encouraged by the trainers and supervisors at the WEPSS centre to keep in touch. In fact, since I completed my training, I have referred two more friends of mine there. Although they were unable to qualify for the sewing machines, they did well.
Now you have completed the training, what are your next steps?
WEPSS has been of great help to me because I was able to learn new skills and acquire an industrial sewing machine at no cost. I am sewing clothes for just myself, my family and friends at the moment. I am still in school in my final year now.
After I am done with my studies, I plan to start sewing full time, on a commercial scale. I am equally improving on what I was taught, learning how to make designs. I intend to direct my focus on sewing women and children’s clothes.
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