Sewing and garment manufacturing is often seen as women’s work, but that did not deter Gugulethu resident Mxolisi Mngxali from turning his dream of making clothes into a reality.
The 43-year-old was the only man among 16 women who graduated on Thursday March 16, from Sinakho Leadership Support and Skills Development Centre, which trains township people in all aspects of garment manufacturing, sales and distribution.
The participants completed an intensive three-month training course and received certificates.
Residents, graduates and mentors gathered at Johnson Gwevela hall, in Langa, to witness the ceremony. The Langa-based organisation teaches township people about sewing as well as how to start and run effective businesses.
Mr Mngxali said he developed a passion and love for sewing while he was still young, before he went to high school. He said he always knew that one day when the time was right he would eventually enrol for a proper sewing course.
He told Vukani that it was during high school that he started taking sewing seriously and he would make his friends and relatives clothes to perfect his skills.
The motivating and positive feedback he got from his clients made him realise that he was onto something.
However, when he passed matric in 1994, he enrolled at the Cape Academy School for an administration course.
But he insisted that he made a pact with himself that when the time was right he would follow his dream to sew.
He said in 2011 he bought a sewing machine and donated it to a friend who was sewing clothes. But, he said, later on realised that the machine was not being used properly and opted to take it back.
Last year he then heard about the Sinakho Leadership Support and Skills Development Centre and tried to register but he was told the class was already full. But he literally pleaded with the organisation to allow him to attend classes, saying he would practise at home on his own machine.
Mr Mngxali said he had to work extra hard and had to make numerous sacrifices. “Sewing work in our communities is seen as women’s work and that is totally wrong. People seem to be puzzled and amazed that I was attending a sewing and garment manufacturing class. And to be the only man in a group of women; that also brought its own challenges,” he said.
Mr Mngxali said he plans to establish an organisation in his community and teach people for free about garment manufacturing, and there are already three people who have indicated that they are interested.
He adds that he also runs a community food garden.
Thembeka Tholeni, a tutor at the centre, said the organisation was established in 2011 and ever since then they have never looked back. Ms Tholeni said the reality is that many people are battling to find employment because some do not have any form of skills and they are aiming to equip them with necessary skills.
“For the training, a students pay R2 000 and we teach them everything related to garments manufacturing. We want them to be job creators,” she said.