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World Youth Skills Day: Meet Amida, a skilled entrepreneur.

She symbolizes determination and focus. A strong-willed character with the poise to succeed no matter the circumstances in which she finds herself.

I am Amida Iddrisu, an ambitious young lady with the dream to run a business that provides livelihood support for persons with physical disabilities.

After surviving from a childhood disease, community neglect and discrimination, coupled with superstitious beliefs that saw such retarded children as ‘abnormal and evil’ and who needed to be killed, she is now a budding entrepreneur who has an established business in manufacturing bed and neck supporting pillows out of plastic waste.

As the globe celebrates World Youth Skills Day, we take a dip into the life of 25 years Amida Iddrisu, a native of Tamale in the Northern region.

“My late grandmother was my caregiver, she told me she had had to care for me because I had been labelled evil because of my inability to sit, crawl or walk at age 5 “.

Under the care of her grandmother, Amida was enrolled in the Al-Saqaat Basic School in Tamale at age eight and with defiance and support from a “good samaritan”, she enrolled to study a High National Diploma in Accountancy and graduated in 2015.

I wouldn’t have been able to graduate after enrollment but for the Creating Change programme by CAMFED.

Life after HND was not as expected as all efforts to get formal employment was daunting but she did not give up.

After three years of applying for jobs and finding none, I finally I enrolled in EquipHub to study Entrepreneurship and Employability in 2018. The programme was sponsored by the Canadian Embassy.

And since 2018, Amida has moved from liability to being an independent person. From a small corner of her room in Tamale, she recycles plastic waste into bed and neck support pillows.

Amida through a philanthropist has acquired an electric sewing machine (object behind her covered in the cardboard) which she intends to use to expand her business. Buta Photography for www.zamireports.com

Her disability, essential tremor is characterized by shaking in the hands, arms, head, legs, and voice but she kept daring herself.

I started thinking about something that could be possible and comfortable for me to do to improve my livelihood and empower those in similar situation (people living with physical disability) in my region so I came out with the idea of developing an environmentally responsible product, producing pillows out of plastics sachets (pure water rubber) that are usually disposed.

She collects the plastic wastes from both homes and sachet water producers in Tamale. Buta Photography for www.zamireports.com

The United Nations, at its General Assembly in November 2014, declared 15 July as World Youth Skills Day. The Day provides an opportunity for young people, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions, and public and private sector stakeholders to acknowledge and celebrate the importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.

A report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) suggests there were 259 million young people classified as having no employment or education in training (NEET) in 2016 – a number that rose to an estimated 267 million in 2019 and is projected to continue climbing to around 273 million in 2021.

In terms of percentage, the trend was also slightly up from 21.7% in 2015 to 22.4% in 2020 – implying that the international target to reduce the NEET rate by 2020 will be missed.

In sub-Saharan Africa, unemployment rates remain relatively low, as the vast majority of employable active youth cannot afford not to work. However, these youth regularly suffer from under-employment and lack of decent working conditions.

Of the 38.1 per cent estimated total working poor in sub-Saharan Africa, young people account for 23.5 per cent, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Again, the ILO indicates young girls tend to be more disadvantaged than young men in access to work and experience worse working conditions than their male counterparts, and employment in the informal economy or informal employment is the norm, a report that vindicates Amida’s claims of not securing formal employment in any Ghanaian public or private institution.

In my part of the world, many organizations do not employ people with disability. That intensified my decision to create a business for myself.

Furthermore, the International Labour Organization purged Ghana’s youth unemployment between 1999 and 2019 at 13.69% for youth between the ages of 15 and 24, an increase from 13.7% recorded in 2018 and 2019.

But determined not to remain on the NEET database of the ILO, Amida began pushing herself further.

My first order was two neck supporting pillows for staff of the Canadian Embassy in Ghana. My largest order was in 2019 where I produced 19 products for the Savannah Signatures, an NGO based in Tamale.

A neck supporting pillow for travellers which she produces for sale.

In every GHS 400 investment she makes, Amida produces ten (10) pillows with, she generates GHS 500, getting a profit of GHS 100.

Fewer orders mean less profit but she still perseveres. In 2020, Amida has not received any huge orders.

I have sold four pillows so far since the year began.

A sample of the bed pillows she produces from the plastic wastes.

Though her livelihood support has drastically been affected by the unset of the novel Coronavirus, she is optimistic there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

Creating an eco-friendly environment through recycling and providing an enabling environment for persons with disabilities to acquire decent jobs and livelihoods are her aspirations. She says her humble beginnings could aid Ghana in meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 8, indicator 5 which enjoins Countries to “by 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value”.

My business addresses the problem of garbage in Tamale by gathering plastic sachets (a huge source of waste) and turning them into a useful product and to ensure people are safe from contacting diseases like cholera, malaria etc.

With support from friends, Amida has registered her business Hamy’s Comfort at the Registrar General. She tells www.zamireports.com her business will be the next big thing in Ghana and Africa.

Tools that Amida uses during her work. Buta Photography for www.zamireports.com

According to UNDP, Ghana currently produces 1.7 million tonnes of plastic waste annually with only 2% being recycled, and Tamale where her business is located generates about 810 tonnes of plastic waste of which only 210 tonnes are recycled.

Again, only 2% of plastic waste is controlled.

The other 98% is left uncontrolled, implying that most of the plastic waste generated ends up in the environment, causing disease outbreaks like malaria, cholera etc and pollution of our water bodies, thereby affecting aquatic lives.

At Hamy Comfort, her business model is to collect all manner of plastic wastes for reuse and recycle to produce creative and innovative Ghanaian made products that can compete on the market.

The products are environmentally friendly and waste-free. With 1 tone of plastic waste, we recycle it into producing environmentally friendly and comfortable home decor products like regular pillows, furniture, Travel Neck Rest, Baby net rest, Door mats, back rest, arm rests, Jewellery etc.

The young entrepreneur envisions recycling at least 40% of the total plastic waste generated in the Northern regional capital Tamale annually.

She steadily shreds each plastic waste into suitable sizes that can fit into the pillow bag she sews manually.

The 2020 World Youth Skills Day is being organized virtually with a panel discussion globally focussing on skills for a Resilient Youth in the Era of COVID-19 and beyond.

Various virtual events are focused on the theme “Skills for a Resilient Youth”.

The writer Zubaida Mabuno Ismail is the editor-in-chief of www.zamireports.com

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