Traditional seamstress Thembeka Metele, 77, established her own craft business called Iza Crafts in 2001 with the aim of providing employment, empowering women and helping local crafters in finding a market for their products.
Metele, who is a former field worker for non-profit organisation Operation Hunger, spent most of her adult life working in community development where she established craft projects in Mooilplaas. She continued her work in collaboration with Operation Hunger and established her own traditional clothing business, Sithi Kwantu, based in Mdantsane.
“I didn’t get a proper education growing up but I was blessed enough to be talented with the skills of sewing and making traditional clothes. My mother was also a seamstress, so I guess I took after her,” said Metele.
She said her work at Operation Hunger involved going around rural areas empowering people by showcasing their talents in crafting.
“During my time as field worker, I learned what these people’s aspirations were and the vision they wanted in their lives. Operation Hunger closed down but the passion of craftsmanship didn’t. That is where Iza Crafts was established.”
Some of the workers are from the rural areas that Operation Hunger used to visit.
“The beauty of my employees is that they teach and empower each other. I am glad that I have rubbed off the empowering spirit to these women,” said Metele.
“Things have changed now, as the business is not as successful as it was before. I have let some of my employees go because of lack of finances. They are now working at similar working environments than this and I am left with just a few.”
Lahliwe Mona is one of the workers who as been with Iza Crafts since its creation.
“I am also from Mooiplaas. I met Metele when she was a field worker at Operation Hunger. She has made a difference in my life because it is difficult to find a stable job nowadays. I have worked with wonderful people here, we have become a family,” said Mona.