63 young women from vulnerable families, on October 3, graduated in a ceremony after completing their one-year studies at Our Sisters’ Opportunity Academy (OSO) in Kirehe district. The young graduates are from vulnerable families, living with disabilities or teen mothers who didn’t have facilities to support their children and families. ALSO READ: Vibrant fusion at ‘Africa a la Mode’ fashion show Through a fashion showcase, the graduates exhibited some of their designs that they had worked on while at the fashion school, including bags, jewellery and shoes that they put on the market. The top three graduates were rewarded for the best business plan and were granted Rwf500, 000, Rwf150, 000 and Rwf150, 000 respectively to support their ideas as they step out. Combining her love for fashion and community development Delphine Uwamahoro founded OSO in 2019 with the aim to create enduring opportunities for young women through education, economic empowerment, and social change. OSO provides comprehensive vocational training for young women through a one-year, accredited program at OSO’s Creative Design Academy. Talking to The New Times, Uwamahoro shared that over 110 vulnerable students have graduated at the academy giving them opportunities to create jobs from the skills they acquired through the one-year program offered by OSO. “This is our second cohort of graduates since 2019, and we are overwhelmed by the outcome. These young women came to OSO with no skills and money to support them but they are now able to support their children and families as teenage mothers,” she said. She highlighted that the biggest impact the academy had on these young women was to change their mindsets and help them to believe in themselves when they first joined the academy. She further emphasized that the program helped the students to rise and become independent business owners and leaders in their communities. Assoumpta Mushimiye, 25, a mother to a four-year-old, is one of this year’s graduates at OSO. She dreamt of becoming a fashion designer but growing up in a poor household made her dream impossible. “My life before OSO was full of despair because I felt that I was of no use. When I was in senior five I had to drop out of school because I was pregnant and life had lost all its meaning. The academy brought hope back in my life when I was selected for a scholarship to study what I had dreamed of,” said Mushimiye. She emphasized that she is now confident and ready to start working on her business plan and support her child. Mushimiye and her former graduates had already started to make income while they were learning how to tailor school uniforms for different schools and other clothes for the market. “As a young woman who got pregnant while living with my parents, I always felt small but OSO shaped us into confident women and made us believe that we can be whatever we want. We are also going to give back to our community and empower other young girls who didn’t get a chance to study at OSO,” she added. Using a vulnerability selection criterion, OSO students come from rural regions of Kirehe and all receive scholarships for their studies. The Creative Design Academy curriculum engages students in technical and practical experience, while enriching the whole self. OSO graduates start their own businesses, work together to form new cooperatives, or find ethical employment in Rwanda’s emerging fashion industry. Beyond the creative design, the school also offers other programs like sexual and reproductive health and rights education, distribution of school readiness materials, community agribusiness training including permaculture and environmental conservation techniques among others.