We intend opening our own outlets, starting in EC and growing from there. The 50 machines and the material well get with the ECDC money will enable us to do this. Vuyokazi Bodlani.
The Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) has invested over R600,000 in a women’s development project in rural Transkei.
The money supplements a grant of over R4,72 million which the Sthembene Women’s Development Enterprise (SWDE) received from the Thina Sinako Programme. ECDC’s funding provides the bridging finance for the project.
SWDE trains and mentors rural women in sewing and craft making and provides a platform for crafters to market their wares.
To date, ECDC, the provincial development agency, has contributed substantially, in development funding and professional assistance towards theproject, says SWDE co-founder Vuyokazi Bodlani, with the biggest contribution coming with linking SWDE with Thina Sinako.
Millons approved for Libode factory
Last month Thina Sinako approved an amount of R4,72 million in grant funding which will go towards building a new factory in Libode in the former Transkei. TS is an European Union (EU) funded organisation which focuses on local economic development.
“In 2007/08, ECDC extended R200,000 to fund feasibility studies and linked us with Thina Sinako. Thina Sinako conducted an assessment and determined we needed to be capacitated. They recently granted us R4,7 million to build a factory,” Bodlani says.
SWDE ambitions are to open up outlets in Eastern Cape major centres. They are looking for other distribution channels that expose their products to a broader South African market.
“We intend opening our own outlets, starting in the Eastern Cape and growing from there. The 50 machines and the material we’ll get with the ECDC money will enable us to do this,” Bodlani says.
She adds that going global is also a possibility. If sales at Milan Italy’s International L’Artigiano de Fiera Milano crafts exhibition are anything to go by, there is a market overseas.
Employees now stand at 300
The sewing network, which aims to create clothing inspired by African traditional wear, fits well into popular culture. SWDE has gone from 14 employees at inception to 300 employees.
“So far we have trained 280 people and are confident that we will employ most of them. We want to employ 300 people. The spin offs (of that employment) will reach about 1,500 people,” says co-founder Vuyokazi Bodlani.
15 training centres in King Sabata municipal area
Since inception, SWDE has expanded from one training centre to eight in the King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality and is linked to seven cooperatives.
“However, only three are registered and can therefore work with us immediately,” Bodlani adds.
Bodlani says the struggle to get the training centre up and running has not been easy but was driven by the passion to get rural women to use their skills while teaching the youth crafts.