At the Lycée d’enseignement technique et professionnelle in Lomé, Togo, a group of students are busy in a room in Block A. With scissors, needles, tape measure and other sewing tools, and paper patterns, they draw, trace and sew miniature models. In the middle of them, Merveille Akouvi AWOUSSI, discovers sewing with wonder.
15 years old and in her first year of high school, Merveille is an active member of the Aflatoun Club at the Lycée. She discovered the club during an awareness-raising session a year earlier. Then in the second year of high school, she decided to join, attracted by the idea of learning about savings and financial management: “The idea that attracted me was that of financial independence. Coming from a low-income family, learning how to better manage my pocket money and thus help my parents was a comforting idea for me.”
The Aflatoun Club was created under the project ‘Life Skills and Financial Education Through a Gender Lens’, supported by Dubai Cares, which aims to reach 6000 young people in three countries – Togo, Mali and Niger, of which at least 50% girls. During the implementation phase of the project, a club was created in Merveille’s school and the Social and Financial Education curriculum was rolled out.
After the introductions to budgeting and financial management, she started saving: “Last school year (2021), I only saved for one month. But as I discovered the potential of my savings, I regularised my contributions. This year, I have not missed a single month of savings,” she says.
Combining business with pleasure
At the Aflatoun club, Merveille also discovered sewing, the club’s main activity. As her high school does not offer this training, she saw the opportunity to add a string to her bow. Despite the fact that the high school is a technical school, sewing is not offered. And yet, sewing is an optional subject offered in the various exams. “I said to myself that it was a chance for me to learn sewing. At the past exam, I had the choice between drawing and sewing. I chose drawing instead. But I didn’t get the average mark because neither drawing nor sewing is taught at school.” For her, learning sewing at the Aflatoun club is an excellent opportunity to get good marks in the next exam.
Merveille is also enthusiastic about the idea of other creations. Her mother works in the fabric business, and Merveille now sees the opportunity to use fabric scraps to create everyday objects. She hopes that her creations will allow her to save money so that they can support herself and her family financially.