Cowhide – creating sustainable jobs for the Zulucow craftswomen and men who do not want handouts.

You see a great deal of cowhide and cowhide accessories on the market in the UK and elsewhere; but Zulucow’s cowhides are different. They are unique because of their beauty, quality and provenance. They are ‘handmade’ and not mass produced.

All Zulucow’s cowhide rugs are sustainably-sourced from the Nguni cattle (bred for centuries, by the Zulus for their meat and their hides) and they are creating desperately-needed skills and long term jobs for Zulus in rural South Africa, which is crippled by unemployment and poverty.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was blown away by the welcome Ma Beatrice, Lihle, Ma Philippine, Boaster and the rest of the ZC craftsmen and women gave us when we first visited the workshop, 4 years ago. Ma Beatrice ran over to me and said:“Ngiyakuthanda wena” (We love you Lucy.) (Crikey?!) She gave me one of her enormous, warm bear hugs! I was flabbergasted; not realising that our (then small) orders were making such a difference to her and her family’s life.

In a country where unemployment is officially 26% but rockets up to 70% in the rural areas; jobs are like gold dust; let alone sustainable, long term jobs with valuable skills development.

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Recently I was talking to a South African businesswoman who was over in the UK for business and was staying with our wonderful South African friends, nearby. (I spent my childhood in South Africa and am married to an equally wonderful?! (well most of the time?!) South African (who I bizarrely met at a fish and wine festival in Kaikoura, New Zealand;) but that’s another story!

Anyway! We were talking; and I said I didn’t feel like Zulucow was doing enough to help the ladies and men in the workshop in S.A who are tanning our hides and making our products, so masterfully. I wanted to donate some money to them. She hauled me up immediately!

“No!” she said: “The craftswomen and men do not want hand-outs. They know that gifts of money don’t help; the money has no long term benefits for them. They want the employment Zulucow and other small businesses are providing them; the sustainable, reliable jobs; the consistent, above-average living wage; so they can plan ahead; feed and educate their children; buy seed for their plots and chickens for protein for their children.” That was me told!  

From conversations with the Zulu ladies and men in South Africa, I knew they wanted the training and new skills they were getting in the workshop when making our cowhide accessories. The men wanted to learn the processes involved in properly tanning our Nguni cowhide rugs; and the ladies wanted to learn how to finely cut leather; and use sewing machines skilfully to make our collection of handbags, purses or cushions.

I do believe, from chatting to the craftswomen and men; that through the training and skills development in the workshop; they do feel like they are being empowered; with the ability to leave if they want to in the future, with better prospects when looking for other jobs; and that has got to be better than any handout!

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The part I’m most proud of, is contributing (in a small way) to the empowerment of the women who make Zulucow’s cowhide accessories.

These jobs and the living wage they derive from them, give them an independence and the ability to be in control of the home finances; their own destiny and to care for their children when sadly the majority (not all) of their husbands are unreliable or absent.

Frequently, I learnt, from talking to the ladies, that men in these remote, rural areas lacking any jobs; go to Johannesburg to try and find work; but never return (meeting other women and setting up second families and homes in ‘The City of Gold’!) The ladies know, that they and their families will be stronger if they can provide the living wage on which to rely upon.

I’m really proud that through your wonderful purchases, my fabulous Zulucow customers (!) we are doing just that. Every time you order a Zulucow handbag, rug, cushion or accessory; you are making a considerable difference to the lives of these talented, warm, kind and cheerful, Zulu ladies and men.

Hamba Kahle!

Lucy

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2017-10-09T22:13:18+00:00