Sunday, February 27, 2011

Local project - Iziko lo lwazi, learning and earning

There are so many fantastic local projects that are being run around Cape Town. Iziko lo lwazi is just one that took my interest. I went to visit the organisation in Hout Bay and interviewed the ladies who started the organisation 9 years ago.

Iziko lo Lwazi is a vibrant and dynamic non-profit organisation in Hout Bay which empowers women from the township of Imizamo Yethu through employment and education. The organisation’s aim is to create a sustainable business that can ultimately be run by the woman who work there.

The crafters make high quality hand-made paper, paper products such as journals, cards, photo albums as well as fine beaded goods which are sold locally and internationally. Volunteer, Caryn Eigner, the women themselves and often the purchaser develop the crafts designs and provide the creative inspiration.  The hand-made recycled paper has unique additions which make the various colours. Paper is produced from rooibos tea, maize, alien reeds, horse, camel and elephant dung. Washed up seaweed from the Atlantic beaches produces an especially beautiful natural coloured paper.  Dedicated volunteers Jean Fairhead and Jenni Fleetwood often scour the beaches after storms. Jean , according to Jenni, is never without her shovel, whether it be to shovel dung or seaweed.

Iziko lo Lwazi craft workers began as an adult literacy programme 9 years ago, offering free English lessons in the library at the informal settlement of Imizamo Yethu. Initially the main objective of this project was to improve English language skills in order for women to improve their chances of finding employment. Jean Fairhead initiated this project when she became aware of how many people were unemployed and how difficult finding employment was with inadequate English communication skills.  English is still taught at Iziko lo Lwazi by trained volunteers Jenni Fleetwood, Lee Ruffel as well as Jean Fairhead.

However, it soon became evident that education was seen as a luxury when food needed to be put on the table and that learners needed to learn and earn at the same time. Paper making was the first project the organisation began. It was started from humble beginnings by Jean Fairhead. Hand-made paper was prepared in a tin tub with no facilities or premises within Imizamo Yethu. Several years on, Iziko lo lwazi now operates out of two refurbished containers donated by the Freddy Hirsch Group, a Wendy house that houses the craft shop and a garage within the grounds of the Hout Bay Community Cultural Centre where the array of crafts are made and sold.

Iziko lo lwazi crafters project impacts the community by providing fundamental tools to support living and encourages all aspects of community development. The organisation empowers women from rural backgrounds to support their families and themselves. Apart from teaching women crafting and entrepreneurship skills, it also provides education on TB and rape awareness. Selling the crafts at the Hout Bay Lions Market provides an opportunity for the women to improve their numeracy and marketing skills.

Iziko Lo lwazi currently supports 16 permanent crafters and this number rises to 35 when large orders are made. As a result, sometimes as many as 10 dependants per crafter are supported by this project.

Iziko lo Lwazis’ recent successful showcasing at the 2009 Design Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre was a significant achievement for all concerned in this project. Displaying their beautiful crafts alongside the big names in design was a great encouragement for the crafters.

Jean envisages Iziko developing with crafters being trained as supervisors supported by grants the project receives. In this way, the responsibility for running the organisation can increasingly be shifted onto the women working in the project. She believes that in order to facilitate this process 3 things are needed – increased funding, bigger orders and more publicity.  The bigger orders would help to streamline production by allowing crafters to become really experienced at making one product exceptionally well.

Iziko lo lwazi has provided opportunities for many women to improve their lives.  Volunteer, Jenni Fleetwood, tells the story of a woman crafter who set up a small shop within the township, Imizamo Yethu from the money she had earned while working at Iziko lo lwazi. With the money she earned from this enterprise she was able to become a trained health worker which she continues to do today.

Iziko lo lwazi’s craft shop at the Hout Bay Community Cultural Centre is open from 8.30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. On Sundays they have a stall at the Hout Bay Lions Craft Market. Iziko lo lwazi is a registered Non Profit organisation and donors receive tax reductions.

This project has grown from a few women making paper in a tin bath in a township 9 years ago to a thriving project producing high quality items worthy of the prestigious Design Indaba. Iziko lo lwazi is growing from strength to strength, providing new skills, opportunities and hope for the community.

Nokhaya Ndude and Nosiphiwo Masekwana ladies who are supported by the Iziko lo lwazi project.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Looks like an amazing project. Are you involved in any way?