Meet the Women of Streetwires, South Africa

Streetwires of South Africa works with Zulu wire art craftspeople, who mold recycled wire, beads, and tin cans into colorful toys, keychains, jewelry, and gifts. Established in 2000, it provides training, support, and raw materials to over 100 formerly unemployed men and women in Cape Town and rural Clanwilliam.

Here’s what Streetwires has to say about the work that they do and their place in the community:

Many of the women in the Streetwires community are from the rural parts of the Eastern Cape, and many have been disadvantaged not just economically, but also in terms of access to educational institutions. We have at Streetwires been able to train some of our beading ladies into administrative positions where they have learned both computer literacy and business savvy. It is our wish to be able to train more women in the same way in order to assist both their personal andeconomic growth.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Streetwires interviewed three of the vibrant women who work there. Each began as an entry-level beader and has moved up in the organization:

Interview with Mabel Mtali, Dispatch and Export Administrator in training

How has working with Streetwires changed your life?
Well, I started here in 2002. Before that I worked in the clothing industry and for a short time in security but I didn’t like it that much. Then I joined Streetwires doing beading but soon afterwards I moved into quality control. And I worked there for many years until I was moved to the reception answering the phone and welcoming visitors. I was very happy in the reception but then I got sick ( T.B) and I couldn’t work for a year. When I was cleared for work, I came back to SW and now I am working in dispatch and I am going to learn all about exporting.

What would you like to say to the people who purchase the products that you make?
For us its a very good thing because then we have work, and the more orders that we have, the more income we earn.

What are your hopes for the women of South Africa for the coming year?
We need jobs for the people that haven’t got work, and there must be less crime against women.

Interview with Sibongiseni Ndzeku , Shop Assistant

How has working with Streetwires changed your life?
Now I am able to communicate with people and explain what we do. I never did beading before Streetwires and now I know how but now I am working in the shop. I am able to express my feelings now and I am happy because I have more experience in working with people and working with the POS computer system. I am happy because so many people are interested in what we do.

What would you like to say to the people who purchase the products that you make?
I’d like to say thanks to them for buying our products and I’d like them to buy more products just because we have beautiful stuff.

What are your hopes for the women of South Africa for the coming year?
I wish them to be responsible for our children so that they can grow into clever adults. We need education and jobs for women so that we can look after our families.

Interview with Sidumisile Gasela , Sample Beader (develops products and sets standards for other beaders)

How has working with Streetwires changed your life?
I didn’t have work when I came to South Africa from Zimbabwe, but I came to Streetwires and I learned to bead. That was in 2003. I am a very good beader so now I am beading with the sample artists, which means I make new samples. I made many friends at Streetwires and I met my partner here as well.

What would you like to say to the people who purchase the products that you make?
I would say thanks for buying our products because this is how we make our money and also because we make very special things.

What are your hopes for the women of South Africa for the coming year?
I wish for them more money and love and everything!

Click here to learn more about Streetwires and purchase their products >>

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