With the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, and its emphasis on empowering women, (through reliable jobs and fair wages) I thought I’d ‘air’ some conversations I had with the talented Zulu ladies who make my products. (I went out to South Africa to visit them, last year.)
Khanyi and Gloria (both single parents and sole providers) told me how crucial their jobs at the workshop are for them to survive; and to put food on the table for their children. Khanyi also said the job empowered her; gave her an identity:
The Fairtrade website states that: “Fairtrade Standards make sure that they (the women) have a living income, a voice in their community, are represented in decision-making and benefit from Fairtrade.”
Zulucow is not officially certified as ‘Fairtrade,’ but from the 8 years I’ve been working with this cooperative of Zulu ladies (and men) in the workshop; I know the production of Zulucow’s cowhide bags and accessories; has helped to sustain their long term, reliable jobs. From the first time I met Ma Beatrice who hugged me warmly and said she ‘loved me’ (because Zulucow’s orders were helping to sustain her job,) I was determined to make a success of Zulucow. I wanted to try and help create more jobs for these women who have so little compared to us.
Last time I went out, Lindiwe proudly invited me to the home she has built with her wages. She told me her job in the workshop has empowered her, and that her income is essential in supporting her four children as well as her sister and her family too. She also told me she enjoys the independence she derives from her job. She has managed to save money to build her house and help her brother Sizwe (who also works at the workshop) to build his.
The Fairtrade website says: “We know that independent income in the hands of women brings positive change to communities even faster.” Well this is certainly my experience with working with the team who make Zulucow’s bags, belts cushions and accessories These women invest their money in their children, their homes and extended families.
They have to; as Gloria says, the women are always responsible for the children, unlike the men: “The men they just go to another woman…and they will leave her too; that’s just the way it goes.”
Thandi is another of the talented seamstresses. She too is a sole provider, building a home with her father; paying the bills, buying the food, and supporting her two children with her income:
I’m so proud to be working with this team of strong, empowered women. They are not only empowering their sons and daughters, by stressing the importance of going to school and developing new skills; but they are actually empowering me too, to build this small business which I’m so passionate about; and which is forming my identity too. ‘Women Empowering Women.’ They inspire me to grow Zulucow and make it a success; and they say that I am helping them (through Zulucow’s orders), to learn new skills and to help provide stable jobs with a good income, so they can plan for their and their families’ future. I am so proud to know these wonderful strong, talented women!