A Makhaza-based women’s project is making its mark as a leading puppet supplier.
The dynamic Indawo Yabomi co-op was founded by Mandiseli Maseti more than 10 years ago to uplift and empower women and children.
When the Makhaza Development Centre, was built near their homes in 2004, they were excited that they would have a place to do their crafts, act and dance, a theatre space and a place where they would showcase and sell their artwork.
Mr Maseti also opened a pre-school in the space and it was then that he was able to lure some parents to get involved with his projects.
Parents of the children who felt trapped in their houses decided to use their free time to help out in the creche. And before long they were also learning sewing, knitting and gardening skills.
Now a group of these women are using their artistic skills to make a difference in their community, producing puppets for businesses, and some overseas clients.
From sitting at home with nothing to do, the group’s members are about to make income for themselves.
And Mr Maseti is delighted that there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. “It has been tough because of the pandemic to sell the puppets. But I can tell you, they are in demand abroad. We are hoping that things (return to) normal so that we can be free to sell abroad. We have also approached retail stores like Woolworths and others and they are interested,” he told Vukani.
He added that he started Indawo Yobomi to encourage locals to do things for themselves instead of asking for help.
“People should love themselves and their God-given skills. But most times, we do not realise how talented we are until somebody else shows us.
“These women have talent but there was no one encouraging and showing them. I am happy they have something to do,” he said, adding that they will also be making toys for creches.
Zanele Dlova, 51, was the first to join the group. She said she had gained a lot of experience and was proud to be a part of the group.
“I am grateful to have been among the women to learn the skills here. I also help in the soup kitchen and the preschool. I never thought that I would be able to do puppets but now I feel like I am an expert,” she said.
Nophelo Cwathi, 38, said first they learned to make things, and now they’re learning to make a profit.
“This is a stress-free space. We do all the good things instead of sitting at home stressing about the next meal. But now we are learning how to sell these puppets and make a profit. We will soon show the world our expertise and capabilities,” she said.