The Youth VDT Initiative: Empowering Tanzanian Youth Through Leather Craft

In 2019, Esther Boniface Masawe embarked on a mission to empower out-of-school youth in Mwanza, Tanzania, through handcraft, training, and mentoring. What started as a one-time income generation training activity quickly evolved into a transformative program – the Youth VDT Initiative.

The initiative faced initial challenges in product selection due to limited availability of funds. However, a survey revealed a high demand for quality leather school shoes and affordable leather products in Mwanza city. With an initial investment of US$4K, they ventured into shoe and sandal production, laying the foundation for remarkable growth.

In 2022, USADF awarded Youth VDT Brands a US$10K grant to enhance their capacity in providing handicraft and life training skills to vulnerable youth in Mwanza, Tanzania. This grant enabled them to expand their operations significantly, scaling up from producing five pairs of shoes per week to over 20 pairs weekly. Moreover, they introduced new products such as handbags, schoolbags, and belts, resulting in an impressive 81% increase in earnings. Additionally, they broadened the reach of their training programs, from 20 community members annually to 40, predominantly women.

This initiative has not only generated employment opportunities but also nurtured youth independence and facilitated their connection with valuable networks and programs. Through collaboration with 20 like-minded youth and women groups, they successfully manufactured and sold over 500 pairs of school shoes and 800 pairs of sandals by the end of 2023.

One shining example of success is Nyamboga Clara, a 32-year-old cleaner who joined the initiative’s evening shoemaking training sessions to earn extra income. After three months of training, she mastered sandal and shoe making, now earning around US$ 20 per week. With her newfound financial stability, she secured her own apartment and aspires to venture into livestock keeping, thanks to the Youth VDT Initiative.

Their supply coverage has expanded beyond Ilemela District to multiple regions in the Lake Zone, attracting funding from institutions like the National Micro Finance Bank, setting the stage for sustained growth in the leather industry. Beyond the success of this business, Esther Boniface Masawe’s envisions a future where more women actively contribute to the leather sector, driving positive change in their communities and country. Through their dedication and perseverance, the Youth VDT Initiative stands as a beacon of hope, transforming lives and communities one leather product at a time.

Original Source: USADF

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