South Africans everywhere are rising to the challenge of supporting others in meaningful ways as the country faces the COVID19 crisis. Small and micro-businesses are beginning to emerge in support of the widespread efforts to prevent the spread of COVID19. At the same time, the need for money, food and other essential resources is being laid bare in the face of the pandemic.
Despite their own constrained resources, not-for-profit organisations are also stepping up to the plate to help flatten the curve and to find ways to help people put food on the table,.
In one example in Bellville, the Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP) has been supporting a women’s empowerment organisation which provides skills training to women from disadvantaged areas while also offering a chance to earn an income while locked down.
The organisation, called Kwesu Organisation, emerged from a single conversation in 2010 with a woman who was being abused by her husband. “I realised that money wouldn’t make a difference in her life, but skills would,” says Patricia Mudiayi, founder of Kwesu.
Patricia met the woman in a refugee support group. She heard about the woman’s abusive experience and wanted to help. Patricia found that the woman wanted to learn to sew and saw an opportunity. She bought the woman a sewing machine and helped her learn to sew. Over time other women joined the group. The women make clothes to sell, particularly school uniforms.
Using her own resources, Patricia set up Kwesu to offer training for women to learn valuable sewing and business skills that can be used to create an income stream.
Patricia is a refugee herself. She was working as a trader in Greenmarket Square when she applied for and was accepted into a training course that opened the door to a career as a Life Sciences and Life Orientation teacher at LEAP school. She held that post for 15 years before finding her calling towards empowering women to be micro-entrepreneurs.
GTP CEO, Warren Hewitt, met Patricia at a community workshop in 2019 and was immediately impressed by her single-minded focus to help the women she works with.
Patricia is driven by the belief that transformation in someone’s personal life can contribute to the transformation of the world. Kwesu operates on that same principle. The skills the women learn enable them to put food on the table for their families. “I see endless opportunity before me, and I see endless opportunity before these women” says Patricia.
Kwesu has two centres, one in Langa and one in Parow, which are both open from Monday to Saturday. Women at the centre receive a year-long course in sewing, and business, computer literacy and leadership skills which enable them to run their own businesses or to find decent jobs. They are also supported in their social development needs at Kwesu, which hosts events for refugees and also women’s support groups. They can find help with Home Affairs, access food parcels and other support at the centre.
However, with the coronavirus crisis, the Kwesu centres in both Langa and Parow have had to close due to lockdown restrictions. The centre’s primary source of income is from the products the women make.
There is a glimmer of hope for the women at the Kwesu centre in Parow. The GTP has been driving various initiatives to support vulnerable people in Bellville during lockdown. Seeing an opportunity to put money in the pockets of the Kwesu sewing team, the GTP asked Kwesu to make masks for health workers in and around Bellville. This is helping to support some of Kwesu’s operations as well as supporting frontline medical, retail and essential services workers in the area.
The GTP has been supplying fabric donated by the Bellville community and sourced from retailers still operating during lockdown. These donations are passed on to the women of Kwesu, who are paid for each mask they make. This is a small income that will make a huge difference in the lives of the women who are working to help those battling on the frontlines of the COVID19 pandemic.
In two weeks since the initiative started, the women of Kwesu have made nearly 4 000 masks which have been handed out to various social care organisations including Bellville Haven, Elim Night Shelter, MES, KRAC, MES Meath, MES Kuilsriver, Community Policing Forum, Huis Oakdale, CANSA Children, Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District and the City of Cape Town’s Solid Waste team.
Between the two activities of the pattern cutting and masks produced, the women of Kwesu have earned R18 505.
Their work continues, but they still need help.
In recognition of the work Kwesu has done to create opportunities for women in Bellville, the GTP’s CEO, Warren Hewitt, is calling for the community to rally and to support Kwesu. “We want to encourage people in the area to make a donation to this very worthy cause, to give women a chance to thrive, even in very challenging times.”
Donations can be made directly to Kwesu:
Bank Name: Nedbank
Holder: KWESU Informed
Branch Code: 104709
Branch name: Pinelands
Account number: 1093421037
For more information about Kwesu: http://www.kwesu.org