Skills development for rural women

Skills development for rural women Ursula Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:44

Over 5 000 underprivileged learners are set to benefit from 25 rural cooperatives that have been set up and funded by the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) to manufacture uniforms for schools in their communities.

The initiative, which has ensured that all of the cooperatives are women-led, was launched at one of the factories in Nkomazi, Mpumalanga, recently. 

HWSETA Chairperson Dr Nomfundo Mnisi explains that during COVID-19, the seta provided funding for 19 rural cooperatives to manufacture and distribute cloth face masks, reusable sanitary pads and soap.

“We wanted to encourage community members to form groups and become skilled in the manufacture of relevant essential items,” she says.

In 2021, the HWSETA assisted these cooperatives to purchase industrial sewing machines and fabric and helped them to form businesses. “This enabled them to produce high-quality lab coats and scrubs for HWSETA-linked organisations, such as the Wits Health Consortium and Rui and Ruo Medicals,” says Mnisi.  

To ensure that the cooperatives are sustainable and to foster their growth, the HWSETA has now funded these and other cooperatives to manufacture uniforms for poor schools in their communities. The cooperatives will be supported by the HWSETA for three years.

“In the initial stages, we will buy the uniform packs – which include jerseys, trousers, school shirts, skirts and dresses, all made in the local schools’ colours – from the cooperatives, for the learners, so that they have an income,” says Mnisi.

Of the 25 cooperatives, 15 are already operational. The others are in the process of procuring machinery and fabric and will come into operation in time for the start of the 2023 school year. 

Upskilling and changing lives

Nomvula Mbatha-Malaza, who heads up the Elnovu Clothing Primary Cooperative in Kamhlushwa, Mpumalanga, says the project has changed her life.

“I like working with people and learning new things and this project has given me the opportunity to teach people new skills,” she adds.

The cooperative has seven members and employs 20 people.

“We were grateful to receive a contract to produce 3 000 scrubs and lab coats for hospitals in the area last year. This year, we’ve been focussing on school uniforms. I am very grateful to HWSETA for giving me the opportunity to uplift others in my community,” says Mbatha-Malaza.

For more information about the HWSETA, visit

Did you know?

HWSETA falls under the Department of Higher Education and Training. Its role is to help South Africans develop skills and increase their chances of finding jobs that are in line with the economy.