Grant funding from a Gauteng government agency is helping a cooperative keep its doors open and create jobs during busy periods.
Five Tembisa women appreciate the opportunity they have to make money, thanks to government projects that have been sub-contracted to them for many years.
Before 1994, it was nearly impossible for black women to access business opportunities in government. Since then, there are many more opportunities.
Ontiretse 5 Sewing and Beading Primary Cooperative is one of many women-owned cooperatives that have benefitted from government-supported projects.
The cooperative is sub-contracted by the Department of Social Development’s annual project that manufactures school uniforms for children from the poorest households.
Lydia Nkomo, the chairperson of the cooperative, says the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) recently gave it a lifeline through a Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) relief grant.
“We received R12 000 and were told to use it in areas of our operations that were disrupted by COVID-19. We were short on our uniform manufacturing budget and used the money to get more material,” she says.
The cooperative manufactured 800 uniforms for seven schools in Tembisa and Daveyton. Six schools placed 100 orders, while the other place 200.
The GEP is an agency of the Gauteng Department of Economic Development. It provides financial and non-financial support to small, medium and micro enterprises and cooperatives.
This is not the first time that Nkomo received assistance from the GEP. In early 2000, she attended business training organised by the agency. There she met the other women who formed the cooperative with her.
“We were five founding members. The GEP bought us the equipment we needed to start working on big orders, including six industrial-model sewing machines, four overlockers, a hemming machine, bar track sewing machine, buttonhole machine and an electronic cutter machine,” she says.
When the cooperative has big orders, it often hires local people to assist.
“Even though it is short-term, it puts a smile on our faces as we can create jobs for a few people.”
The highlight of Nkomo’s work is skills transfer, as the women have taught each other their skills.