International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Overcoming disability to stitch together a dream

Hearing impairment did not discourage Al Naseem, a Sudanese refugee in Egypt, from acquiring tailoring skills and pursue her dream of starting her own business.

News | 08 December 2022
Al Naseem at the tailoring training centre in Greater Cairo ©ILO
Working as a low skilled worker at a garment manufacturing unit in Cairo, Al Naseem always cherished a dream to upskill and learn tailoring. “Even though I was surrounded by sewing machines all around me, I was not allowed to touch them,” shared Al Naseem, who has now lived in Egypt for over nine years.

Being a person with hearing impairment, acquiring a formal skills training was a challenge. “I had no professional training in tailoring, but somehow, I always believed that I will be able to do it,” she added.

Earlier in 2022, she learned about the “Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programme” supported by ILO PROSPECTS from one of the members in her community.

“With our partner organization, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we introduced TVET programmes on tailoring in Greater Cairo. We aimed to enable refugees and their host communities to secure sustainable livelihoods by developing their technical and vocational skills. We had reached out to communities and invited applications from the interested candidates,” said Dalia Diab, National Project Coordinator, ILO PROSPECTS, Egypt.

Although, Al Naseem made an application to get enrolled at the training, she was sceptical about being accepted at the training programme. “It would have been difficult for me to understand and follow the instructions of the trainers. I was nervous about how the other students will think about me,” said Al Naseem.

She felt encouraged when her application was shortlisted by CRS staff. Lobna Elwa, Senior Project Officer at CRS, said, “Al Naseem was one of the most attentive beneficiaries during the training. The trainer was incredibly supportive to ensure she was able to grasp all the information shared during the training so she spoke slowly. It helped Al Naseem to be able to read her lips and understand the instructions. Her curiosity helped led her to quickly learn new designs.”

Learning a new skill and mastering it was important for Al Naseem. She had returned to her parents’ home following the failed marriage. Their family survived with the limited income she had from the job at garment factory.

The new skill has given me the power to start over my life."

Al Naseem
“The new skill has given me the power to start over my life,” said Al Naseem, who has managed to buy basic sewing kits and start a home-based business of stitching bedsheets. She rents the sewing machine as per her requirements.

She adds, “I have not only learned to use the sewing machine, but I can even figure out how different garments are measured, cut, and stitched. I have started stitching garments with different designs. I earn a little more money now, but I am saving it to further invest and expand my business.”

The ILO and the partners continue to provide mentorship to Al Naseem in her search for decent employment as well as with her small entrepreneurial venture.

There are around 259 persons with disability among the 9,524 total beneficiaries of livelihood programmes of the Government of Netherlands supported ILO PROSPECTS programme in Egypt. They are getting access to employment or entrepreneurship development opportunities.