Community development officer Nivea Phasha said the women, whose husbands work on mines in the area, came together, put money into a pool and embarked on the Phurulogang Sewing Co-operative initiative in 2008.
“They started producing school uniforms for children in the village, and gradually started creating wedding dresses, traditional wear, aprons for catering businesses and outfits for special occasions,” said Phasha.
“This was followed by reflective vests that were manufactured for people who work on the mines.”
Phurulogang, which means “Spread your wings”, was one of a number of projects mandated by the department of mineral resources in the region. Phasha noted that some of the challenges experienced included elderly women like Sinah Mokgoadi, Patricia Mamonyane and Elizabeth Malekane having to master operating computerised machines.
“They started with small portable sewing machines, and now have industrial machines that are faster and produce more garments,” said Phasha.
“They are, however, getting used to operating the equipment. The great thing with the project is that it grew so much since its inception.”
She added that there was room for extending the project, as more communities are to be catered for.
The Saturday Citizen’s visit to the Mpumalanga village followed a briefing at the Helena mine where a full range of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed for women miners will be launched in September.
“Equipment for women is needed as more women are entering the mining industry,” said Xtrata Alloys contract and procurement administrator Linelle Watermeyer.
“The overalls for example, were designed as a two-piece, unlike standard ones that were just not practical for women.”
This after several months of research found that women had resorted to wearing polyester clothing under ill-fitting overalls, which runs the risk of creating rashes and inflammation of the skin as a result of excessive sweating. Select PPE, a provider of customised on-site personal protective equipment, revealed that more than 2.6 million women in the country required some form of protective equipment as part of their work requirements.
“This is a significant number that is continuously increasing, and there is tremendous potential for growth in industries that include, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, utilities and construction,” said accounts manager Debbie Joynt.
“This is especially relevant as the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Labour both recently agreed to implement new legislation surrounding the issuing of purpose designed PPE for women in industrial operations.”