Seamstress Training Provides Low-income Women with Opportunities for a Better Life

A new class of 20 women join the more than 200 trained through the program

SALVADOR, Brazil — Maria Gama is living the dream. The 38-year-old married mother of two grew up playing with her grandmother's sewing machine. Today, she is making money as a seamstress and entrepreneur with enough income to rent a room for her business. Maria and 19 other women are the most recent graduates of a training program offered by Projeto Axé and supported by Ford Fund. The seamstress training program was created to help low-income women learn a skill, earn money and become more independent. Projeto Axé first began by recycling the uniforms of Ford employees into school backpacks instead of disposing of them. The sewing classes have evolved from repurposing uniforms to include design and marketing, and there are also customization workshops held for public school children.

"I want to do for others what no one did for me when I was a child," said Maria. "My wish now is to share my knowledge."

Since 2015, some 200 women have been trained as seamstresses and 50 thousand eco-sustainable backpacks have been produced and donated to area students.

"We are glad to know that we have helped so many women to find a skill, to have their own income and to improve their self-esteem," adds Magnólia Borges, supervisor, Ford Corporate Affairs.

Three women in seamstress lessons at sewing machine Four women inspecting backpacks made of up-cycled Ford uniforms