Aug 2020 2nd Edition

Women earn money while helping others

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

Western Cape seamstresses are making face masks for those in need in an effort to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). A public-private maskmaking initiative is giving community seamstresses a small income while also providing masks for disadvantaged people.

Nicoleen Snay (40), a member of the Divine Elgin Designs cooperative in Grabouw, Western Cape, says they make masks as part of the Ubuntu Cloth Mask Initiative and also donate extra masks to community members.

“We mainly make masks for the Ubuntu initiative but because we started the cooperative to help the youth and unemployed women in the community, we donate any extra masks to people who cannot afford to buy their own. Our community is very poor and with COVID-19 having shut down a lot of businesses around here, we felt the need to help out where we can.”

The Ubuntu Cloth Mask Initiative was started to make quality cloth masks available for free, to poor communities, while also creating employment. The free masks are funded through the sale of additional masks to the private sector and the public, with 100 percent of the proceeds being used to buy fabric and pay the community seamstresses.

Already, over 4 000 masks have been distributed to vulnerable people in the province

The public-private partnership includes the Western Cape on Wellness (WoW!), the Health Foundation, Coconut Jazz, the Infection Control Africa Network and community seamstress networks. 

The masks have three layers and the middle layer is made of material that prevents 70 percent of droplets from passing through, it so that when a person coughs, COVID-19 is less likely to be spread.

Working with Snay in the Divine Elgin Designs cooperative are Euphemia Peitersen, Ivy Gertze, Estelle Williams and Renichia Jack. 

Snay says the masks have helped them put food on the table for their families and is also helping them grow their business.

To donate material or order masks from the Ubuntu Cloth Mask Initiative, contact Harry Grainger at or at 072 613 3719. Masks can also be ordered online at

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