Training upskills women owners

Entrepreneur Nomthandazo Motsoane receives a sewing machine from Sawen acting CEO Ruth Masokoane.

More training solutions for informal and other small women-owned enterprises in the clothing and textile sector should be implemented to ensure that locally-made goods reach the international market.

This, according to the South African Women Entrepreneurs Network (Sawen), who believe some women-run clothing and textile businesses lacked “proper finesse in producing quality products ready for exporting”.

Speaking at a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) sponsored training graduation ceremony for 20 women entrepreneurs in Cape Town last month, acting Sawen chief executive officer (CEO), Ruth Masokoane, said the previous programme’s success must serve as an inspiration for more similar women-empowerment programmes in South Africa.

The initiative, called Bavumile (Xhosa for ‘women have agreed’), was founded and is run by the DTI.

Says Masokoane: “It is an intervention to help perfect the proper selling of local crafts, bead-work, sewing and clothing.”

Following the 10-day training programme, the graduates were given brand-new sewing machines to help them implement their new skills, create a unique line of craftware, and tender to export their work to an international market.

Masokoane says that despite the existing high number of female makers of arts and crafts, many local women-owned businesses were still not economically viable.

She says the “real push lies in the fact that the intra-African economy has been seen to be rising, more so in the area of clothing and textiles”.

Although there were no definitive figures to support this claim, a growing demand for African crafts was reaching more prominence in countries like the U.S. In the U.S., showroom exhibitions, in cities such as Atlanta, continued to draw attention from international authentic craft buyers.

Markets for local creators have also now been opened to showcase their work. The DTI has launched a showroom exhibiting South African arts and crafts in Atlanta.

The aim is to support local female role-players, because “many are still less economically viable”.

The DTI’s Gender and Women Empowerment Unit’s Granny Lekganyane, who runs Bavumile, says the industry was still dominated by male entrepreneurs.

She said: “This is an opportunity for women to profit as well as equip themselves with training.”

The women were introduced to new skills in quality embroidery, doll-making and pattern-making.

This was followed by coaching, marketing, order and selling strategies and presentations by field experts.

Nomthandazo Motsoane, a Hermanus fashion designer and sculptor, took part in the programme.

“I am now more skilled in design and pattern-making, and others will help me realise my dream of hiring five people by the end of this year,” she says.

The graduates’ progress will now be monitored and evaluated over time.

Granny Lekganyane, , Nomthandazo Motsoane, Ruth Masokoane, Sawen

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