Worth more than jewels

Perla is a Freedom Challenge project in Madagascar that is empowering women through skills training.

Perla, the Malagasy word for 'pearl', is a Freedom Challenge project in Ambovombe, Madagascar. 

Ambovombe is the capital of the Androy region in the south of the island. Constantly in a state of drought and crisis, the people are called the ‘Tandroy' or ‘people of the thorns’ in reference to the native plants. 

When OMer Herimanina moved to Ambovombe in 2013 from Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo, she saw that skills training would be beneficial in the town where most people dropped out of school before graduation and were not trained in any way. In Antananarivo, Herimanina had taken sewing classes and enjoyed them immensely. She sold her own sewing machine in order to pay for the ticket to Ambovombe. With a desire to see women empowered, Herimanina began Perla in 2014. 

"The women are worth more than jewels to God," explained OM Madagascar Field Leader Hanitra regarding the choice of name for the project. 

Each year Perla runs from May to October four days a week. Twelve ladies participated in the course this year where they learnt sewing three days a week and cooking once a week. In addition to the skills training the ladies also attended a Bible study and learnt how to share the gospel with others. 

“Our hearts are full of happiness,” one student said at graduation. “We don’t know how to express it, but thank you.” 

The women have changed, and in turn, changed their families. Husbands and relatives have gone to Herimanina and thanked her for helping bring transformation to their families. 

“I can see the results of the effort and time that have been spent (with the ladies),” said Herimanina. 

Personally, Herimanina has also grown and developed alongside the women she teaches. “I’ve learnt a lot about love,” she said. “Loving God and loving people. If you don’t really love them then you can not make much of a difference.”

Empowering women

At 17 Angeline dropped out of school to get married. Despite her protests that she wanted to continue her education, Angeline’s parents accepted the proposal of a 42-year-old man on her behalf. 

“I didn’t know what love meant. When I got married it was not my will, but because of difficulties in my family,” said Angeline. “I didn’t know him and it wasn’t a good base (for marriage).” 

Early on in the relationship, Angeline ran away to her parent's house expecting a warm reception from her family. They did not welcome her, but instead they beat her and sent her back to her husband. Ten years later the couple separated again only to be pushed back together by both sets of parents. 

When Angeline’s husband stated his desire to take on another wife Angeline drew the line and they officially divorced in 2006. 

Unable to get a steady job due to a lack of education, Angeline sold small things such as vegetables on the side of the road when she could to provide for her family. 

Five of her seven children live with her while the other two are cared for by relatives. In addition to her children, Angeline’s elderly parents also live with her. Since the divorce, her husband has had nothing to do with them. 

“I don’t think I will get married again, but something I would like to do is care for my children and pay for their studies,” said Angeline. 

Hearing about Perla from a friend, Angeline was immediately interested, recognising the training as an opportunity to gain skills to provide for her family. 

“I thank God for sending OM here to help us, to create a new thing for us to do like sewing,” Angeline said. “They teach me and I can work and find money.”

Knowing that she attended Perla, people around town began approaching Angeline to sew their clothing even before graduation. The income is already helping the family who just moved into a new house.

Besides bringing in an income, the newly learnt skills directly impact Angeline's family as she is able to repair their clothing and sew her children's school uniforms. Angeline developed more than just sewing and cooking skills though, she developed a personal relationship with Christ.     

“Something I learnt here is the love of God. I know that God loves me. The way He provided this training (is an example). I know how to worship God now. I know how to pray.”

Pray for the women who have done the Perla training in the past three years, that they will continue to grow in their faith and use the skills they learnt to glorify God. Pray for Herimanina as she develops the Perla team and for God's guidance. 


By Rebecca Rempel