Florence Ayikoru is dressed in bright yellow – a colour that matches her vibrant personality and zest for life.
Florence is ForAfrika’s local partner in an Urban Safety Net programme in Juba, South Sudan. She teaches young women to make clothes and other items.
“Women are at the heart of what we do. When you educate a woman you can educate society,” she says.
Florence knows this all too well. As a young girl, the civil war in Sudan forced her family to flee to neighbouring Uganda where she lived in a refugee camp for a number of years.
Now, she is back in South Sudan where empowering other women has become her life’s purpose.
“I come from a family of girls; it gives me the passion to work with girls and women. Instead of giving them handouts, we give them skills,” she says fiercely.
Along with nine other teachers, Florence imparts her knowledge and experience. The women are also able to choose hairdressing, computing, carpentry and catering. Most, however, choose the tailoring.
Each woman is given a tool kit on arrival at the workshop venue. Here vision boards are pasted up on the walls, covered in magazine cut-outs of bright and aspirational outfits.
“The programme offers much more than just these skills, though,” says Florence. “Food security improves and domestic violence decreases. Families are better off.
“Women are empowered and men suddenly realise what they are capable of. It changes the whole story.”
At graduation, each woman leaves with a certificate, but also a sewing machine and other tools.
They are able to start businesses making clothes for their friends and neighbours.
“Some of the women even make school uniforms and church uniforms,” says Florence.
“They are no longer exploited by back-breaking labour – they have an honourable occupation.
“And best of all is that it brings women from all different walks of life and tribes together. This is my way of solving a problem,” she says with a broad, knowing smile.
Leizl Eykelhof is Communications and Content Manager at ForAfrika