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Kishanje, Uganda – December, 2008 – It could have been any graduation with caps and gowns, inspirational speeches, diplomas handedKLAC Grads out with congratulations, group photos, proud teary-eyed parents and giddy grads, but this was not an ordinary graduation. These were the first 15 graduates from the Kishanje Learning Advancement Center Vocational School in Southwest Uganda.

In 2006, these young women took advantage of the first opportunity ever available to them to learn sewing and knitting skills. The women began by sharing one sewing machine in a small room. Classes were scheduled around planting and harvesting. Materials were in short supply so practice dresses and shirts were made out of paper bags. But over the months, more equipment arrived and their skills grew until all of them, each with a specialty, became proficient at making clothing, draperies, hand bags and other items.

The school now owns six sewing machines which the graduates will be allowed to use until they can afford to buy their own. (A new Singer treadle machine costs approximately $100.00). They will most likely begin making items for family and friends, but the hope is that in a very few months, they will begin making products for sale in local markets and in Kabale town. “Here, women often drive the economics of the family,” said school Principal Delith Atuheire. “Once these graduates find they can make money with their new skills, we know others will follow and many more families in this village will prosper.” The next class of students, 30 in all, will graduate in 2010.