Noxolelo Mkenyane, a participant in a sewing training programme offered by the South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL) in 2018 is putting her acquired skills to good use amidst the Covid-19 national lockdown that commenced on 27 March.
The Mbizana based seamstress is producing cloth masks due to the hike in demand as they become a compulsory social safety feature in the lives of South Africans for the foreseeable future, owing to the Corona Virus outbreak.
Mkenyane is one of 12 women from the communities of Mtentu and Lusikisiki who completed a training programme that provided them sewing skills to produce overalls for contractors and labourers working on SANRAL’s flagship N2 Wild Coast Road (N2WCR’s) Mtentu bridge construction project in early 2018.
“I started making cloth masks for free for my neighbours who were being turned back from crossing the Mzamba bridge for not wearing masks. There was a huge demand with no masks available in the area,” said Mkenyane.
She said word of mouth about her masks spread like wildfire across Mbizana and has since been receiving individual and bulk orders from private companies and government.
Mkenyane had since suffered a severe injury to her knee ligament after completing the training programme in 2018, which led to semi-paralysis. The seamstress is hopeful her knee can be salvaged through an operation, which will be undertaken when lockdown regulations around non-urgent elective surgeries are lifted.
“I’m optimistic my knee will be functional again. But for now, I am grateful for this business opportunity that is consuming all my attention and keeping me busy,” explained Mkenyane.
SANRAL Community Development Specialist, Dr Mongezi Noah said the intended outcome of the training in 2018 was to ensure that the group would be able to use the sewing skills imparted on them long after the N2WCR project had concluded, expanding it to tourism by supplying traditional garments and many other products that would provide stock for an envisaged tourist centre at the Mtentu Bridge.
“It is reassuring to see a beneficiary of our flagship project use their acquired skill to take advantage of business opportunities presented by the Corona Virus pandemic, particularly during this time of economic uncertainty and a rise in unemployment across the country,” said Dr Noah.
“Through the training, we set out to teach the group to fish for themselves. We are seeing that in action here,” concluded Dr Noah.