A Rising Entrepreneur

Written by Leonce A. Dossou, PSI/ABMS Communications Specialist

Epiphanie gets a chance to shine thanks to USAID’s Transform/PHARE crafts academy project.

“My mother could not support me, and the only real option I had was to turn to a man for my needs.”

At 21, Épiphanie lives in Essèkpré, a neighborhood of Dassa-Zoumè – a city in Benin. She abandoned her studies in primary school and became a street vendor to help her mother. As the oldest of five children, she took on this responsibility very early on after her parents got divorced .

Épiphanie grew up acutely aware of her family’s financial struggles, so her only desire was to have the means to learn a vocation. Unfortunately, as more years passed, the fewer resources they had, and the stronger the social pressures were.

Globally, there are 214 million women and girls who have an unmet need for contraception. In Benin, only 14% of reproductive-age women in Benin use any kind of contraceptive method.

But one afternoon, Épiphanie received great news. Her mother told her about Académie de l’Artisanat, a vocational program that was recruiting young women her age in Dassa-Zoumè—an opportunity that could lead to freedom from an arranged marriage. Épiphanie was immediately interested and became one of the first to join the program.

The Académie de l’Artisanat program is part of Transform/PHARE’S five-year project designed to infuse innovative practices from a range of disciplines into USAID-supported social behavior change communication. Transform/PHARE emphasizes creative thinking, exceptional design and high-quality production and implementation.

Épiphanie discovered that she had an incredible talent with beads. After only five weeks in the program, she was already able to produce and sell earrings, necklaces and shoes, with an average income of 6,000 to 15,000 FCFA per week.

Her strategy? She gets a loan from her mother to buy the beads in the market, makes the pieces, wears them while visiting friends or potential customers who like her products, and before you know it, she has a sale! After selling, she pays the loan money back to her mother and keeps the profit for herself.

“After a few weeks, Épiphanie stopped asking me for money for her personal needs,” says her mother.

“Besides learning a vocation, I’m so grateful for all the health knowledge shared by our instructors at the Académie. Thanks to this knowledge, I won’t have an unwanted pregnancy and I am aware of the risks of STIs. In one word, I am able to plan my life!” says Épiphanie.

Like her, other young ladies in Dassa-Zoumè are now aware of the benefits of planning their lives and the opportunity to reinvent their future.

This post is part of a series of stories collected by Transform/PHARE, a USAID-funded five-year project implemented by PSI and its partners IDEO.org and Camber Collective that focuses on strengthening health-related behavior change programming.