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Self-Employment in Post-War Sierra Leone

Cooper Inveen | Sierra Leone

Organization: Freelance Photojournalist

Throughout his life, Abdul Razack says he's only ever wanted to make shoes.⁠⠀

He began at 14-years-old, turning down time with friends and working through nights. He canvassed family members for materials and salvaged what they couldn't provide from old tires.⁠⠀

"People would always tell me I should forget about this shoe business and focus on book learning," Razack said. "But I always thought, 'Why can't I do both?'"⁠⠀

After graduating from high school in 2012, demand for his talents took Razack to Liberia, the Gambia and Senegal, providing him with a fixed income that most back home would envy.⁠⠀

"It was fun, but I didn't understand why I should be working for other countries when my own needs me so much more," he said.⁠⠀

Upon his return, Razack established a shop of his own in his home city of Koidu.⁠⠀

Today, Razack has 10 employees--all high school dropouts--with another 30 people on a waiting list. Together, they produce three dozen pairs of sandals per day and sell more than 230 pairs per week.⁠⠀

"I want to help build an industry here, so people don't have to go elsewhere to seek opportunity," Razack said. "Everything we need is right here."⁠⠀

These images feature a collection of young Sierra Leoneans who were raised during Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war as they build their own means of self-sustainance in a country with one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world. It is a series that takes a different look at Sierra Leone's epidemic of post-war joblessness by showcasing those fighting back against it by any means necessary.

Each person featured here is a self-funded and innovative entrepreneur fulfilling a unique need in their local community. They are farmers, cobblers, welders and carpenters, soap makers and water purifiers, bus drivers and beekeepers. They are the true faces of Sierra Leone's future, not the sullen faces of a war 20 years behind them.

Photos taken for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Email: cinveen@protonmail.com

Website: https://www.cooperinveen.com

Instagram: https://instagram.com/cooperinveen

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