I CHOOSE – Celebrating women’s month with Ruth Phiri Chilongu

March 15, 2021





Where others see adversity, Ruth Phiri Chilongu sees an opportunity to empower underprivileged girls with skills that will give them the choice to be whoever they decide. That is why she is our 3rd choice.

Read her story below:


GIRAFFE CREATIVES: Tell us your name and your profession

Ruth Phiri Chilongu: My name is Ruth Phiri Chilongu, I’m a mother and a tutor. I do tailoring and designing and I teach vulnerable women and girls by empowering them with the skill of tailoring at the school that I founded called Njira Skills Youth Training Centre. At the school, we empower about 25 women per year at the end of which they get certification for their skills and are able to find jobs or start a small business after.


Describe yourself in 3 words

Hard-working, energetic and loving.


Our women’s day theme is #IChoose, As a woman who is pioneering in your field, what does being able to choose your vocation and thrive in it mean to you?

I always remember my mum who inspired me. Growing up, I never had a lot of things and I thought of all the women in the community who were in similar situations, who didn’t have the advantage to go to university or finish their varsity. So what has pushed me to be where I am today is that I have the power to make something at the end of the day, to make a living and be counted in the community.


Why is celebrating Women’s day important to you?

Celebrating women’s day is important to me because we are powerful. It’s just that most of the time women don’t recognize that in themselves.


What inspired you to choose your career?

Seeing women being abused in their homes. Having a man be the sole provider and having the muscle to provide, sometimes in a home a woman is not doing anything so as a man if they have the sole muscle they can do everything and they can take advantage. Most of these men take advantage of women, so empowering women, yes, I believe, is what inspired me. I want to give women the power to be financially independent.

My mother is also an inspiration of mine, she inspired me to do this because she used to have a lot of skills. Most people think that having a white-collar job is everything but we need to empower our kids. Just like my mum inspired me to have a survival skill I also want to pass on the skills to women in the community.


What is most fulfilling about your career?

Seeing the women’s smiles, them having that power to say “I have the skills, I can make ends meet, I can do a-b-c. At the end of the day I can have a meal, I can provide for my family, and help my husband” and also help themselves. Most of the women that we train are not only married, they are women who are teenage mothers and women who could not finish their education so at least they are even helping their parents with the skills they learn.


What challenges do you face as a woman in your industry and how do you overcome them?

The most challenging part in my line of work to help empower women has been the attitudes. You know, they come from different backgrounds, they have different attitudes, they have different thinking so just bringing them closer and having that energy and power to say that as women we can do it, we need to be a sisters keeper has been very challenging, but we’ve always told ourselves let us put God first because God is going to help us with everything.


How can women better enable and support each other?

We can help and support each other by coming up with great ideas and working together through the same ideas and also removing that negativity that women can’t work together.


What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Be confident, I’ve struggled with self-esteem so I would just encourage a younger Ruth to just be confident, have that self-esteem, and say you can do it. As long as you have a skill you just have to work hard and things will work out.


What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I love dancing and singing, I sing in the bathroom, I make noise, I love music! Way back at school I used to dance a lot, they even nicknamed me Atoti girl because I used to dance a lot!

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