A Rising Entrepreneur 

by Léonce Dossou, Communications Specialist, ABMS

At 21, Épiphanie lives in Dassa-Zoumè, Benin. As a girl, she abandoned her studies to become a street vendor, helping her mother after her parents divorced. But she’s always dreamed of her own vocation.

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

With limited resources, Épiphanie was afraid she couldn’t protect herself from an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Approximately 214 million women and girls like Épiphanie have an unmet need for contraception, and only 14% of women in Benin use any kind of contraception.

One afternoon, Épiphanie’s mother told her about Académie de l’Artisanat, a vocational program that was recruiting young women her age—an opportunity that could lead to financial independence.

Épiphanie enthusiastically joined the program. It was a weekly course where she learned to bead and sell her crafts. As importantly, her instructors also taught her the importance of protecting her body and her future. It was here she learned about contraception. The Académie is part of Transform/PHARE, a five-year project funded by USAID that uses human centered design to increase demand for contraception.

She proved to be star pupil in the bead program. After only five weeks she was able to sell the jewelry she made, sometimes earning $27 per week.

Épiphanie’s journey of independence continues as a member of the Académie. She receives a loan from her mother to purchase beads, she creates the jewelry, and then she showcases it while visiting friends and potential customers. Through her sales, she’s able to repay the loan, and make a profit.

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