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Young artisan leads in sanitary towel manufacturing

Written by More Matshediso

One of the successful graduates of the Technical Vocational Education and Training institutions is making a big difference when it comes to women’s health in KwaZulu-Natal while showing that its “cool” to be a woman artisan. 

Twenty eight year-old Sinenhlanhla Majozi is a technician at a factory that manufactures low cost sanitary towels at the Coastal College Skills Training Centre for the community of Hammersdale near Durban.Higher Education and Training Health, Wellness and Development Centre’s CEO Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, Deputy Minister Buti Manamela and Sinenhlanhla Majozi at the centre where affordable sanitary towels are manufactured.

Her job as an artisan is to maintain the machine which produces the sanitary towels, and she was well prepared for her position after obtaining an electrical engineering qualification from the TVET.

The college also houses the Coastal College Skills Training Centre, so that many of the students who graduate are able to secure a job.

“The machine that we use is able to manufacture about 366 towels per minute. They are of good quality and they are very affordable. Women can get one pad for about R1.20,” she explained.

Students from the Coastal College Skills Training Centre and women from the Hammersdale community in Kwa-Zulu Natal took it upon themselves to manufacture the low cost sanitary towels to respond to the demand for affordable sanitary towels in the area.

“So far we supply Ukusa Secondary School with about 300 packets of sanitary towels per month. We are still working on marketing our product and distributing it to other parts of the province where it is needed by most women,” Majozi added.

She said she believes in the project because she is a woman and wanted know how the product that she uses is manufactured.

Majozi said about six other females from the community are currently being trained to operate the manufacturing machine as well.

“We heard about this opportunity and wanted to be part of the project to see how sanitary towels are manufactured from scratch. It is important for us as women to be part of this project because we do not want to use products that can give us infections. We wanted to familiarize ourselves with the material used to manufacture the sanitary towels,” she said.

At the moment there are three technicians and four operators who form part of the manufacturing team with other students who work as promoters of the pads.

Deputy Minister for Higher Education and Training Buti Manamela recently paid a visit to the college centre to interact with students who work on the project. 

He said because of the unaffordability of sanitary towels young women are often forced to miss classes and this is impacting on their educational outcomes.

He also said that the low cost South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) approved sanitary towels have the potential to make a difference to students who are not able to afford sanitary towels.

“This is an example of optimal use of relevant resources to provide innovative training using leading technology to skill a diverse community and to manufacture quality products at the lowest possible price,” said Deputy Minister Manamela.

The Department of Higher Education and Training had also been on a massive drive to encourage young people to be artisans.

It had done this through its Decade of the Artisan Programme which advocates that it is “cool” to be a woman artisan. The department reported that the numbers of females registered for artisanal trades were below 25 percent for the 2015/16 financial year and that this sort of project can help change perceptions.

Artisans sometimes earn far more than professionals like bankers and accountants.  For example, a plumber or electrician can earn R1000 an hour when they’ve become experienced. 

Government has decided to focus some of the higher education budget on resurrecting the artisan training schools of the country in an effort to deal with the gap in skills and shortage of technical experts.