School uniform manufacturing cooperatives have a potential of stimulating the economy and creating jobs in townships for young people.
This is according to Kgatelopele cooperative’s, long serving member and chairperson, Germinah Motaung. Kgatelopele manufactures school uniforms in Bophelong near Vanderbijlpark.
The cooperatives is funded by the Gauteng Department of Social Development and was established in 1999, operating as a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) and later registered as cooperative in 2001, after they got an order from the department to sew school uniforms for local schools and they were impressed with the quality of their work.
Motaung said when they started the initiative parents would come buy from them as they were selling at a very affordable price.
“When we started, we were manufacturing curtains, bedding sets such as comforters, pillows and skirts for young girls in local schools. Their parents would come and buy from us because our prices were affordable and we were making good profit,” said Motaung.
She said she is worried that young people in Bophelong do not take sewing seriously and she wants to change the narrative that sewing is for older people.
“This is a skill that can take them places in their lifetimes if they take it serious,” she said.
The 100 percent women owned Kgatelopele cooperative currently employs eight people to assist with sewing and amongst them is three young people. The cooperative is allocated to manufacture 1538 school uniforms for 14 schools in Sedibeng.
26-year-old Flatha Mokoena is one of the young people employed at the cooperative said she appreciates the opportunity for her to acquire sewing skills.
However, Mokoena said their main challenge is the payment delays that they continue to encounter with the government which sometimes cause friction with their staff.
Mokoena has urged other young people to participate in cooperatives amid the high rate of unemployment. She said the impact of covid-19 on the economy which led to the loss of many jobs should be an eye opener to her peers that cooperatives have a potential to create jobs.
“I am grateful for the opportunity and I learned so much since I joined the cooperative. I always had a passion for sewing but didn’t know where I could get the skill and when Kgatelopele asked me to join them I grabbed the opportunity to acquire sewing skill”, she added.