Economic prosperity is a threadbare concept in the village of Dete, Zimbabwe. With a population of 4300, the number of employed residents in the town is less than 1%. Yet it is within such dire circumstances that the Thandanani Sewing Project was born.
“Thandanani, meaning ‘Love Each Other,’ encompasses the cohesion of community so integral to African culture.” Nestled under the mango tree, surrounded by an array of brilliant colours of Chitenge material, are five formidable women armed with needle and thread. Thandanani, meaning ‘Love Each Other,’ encompasses the cohesion of community so integral to African culture. Teaching each other and imparting skills that lead to sustainable lifestyles is a powerful display of love.
These women love with force, woven into the fabric of livelihood and ambition. As veritable entrepreneurs, they have combined their lack of sewing knowledge and minimal savings – self-taught with self-bought machines – and have created a viable income revenue.
To be a part of this enterprise comes with serious commitment. The journey from fabric to finished product begins with a 12 hour bus ride to source the material from Bulawayo, a town 400km away. Alternating tasks, they travel in pairs to buy the chitenge, returning days later with new patterns and innovative ideas. Being the one-stop-shop for all clothing and material accessories in Dete – the ladies are in high demand.
As well as making all the uniforms for the local schools, providing fresh fashion for locals, and even changing the lives of schoolgirls in need by stitching reusable sanitary pads, Thandanani also supplies surrounding lodges with a variety of merchandise. This additional revenue stream supported by tourism has boosted the standard of living for the Thandanani team, who are then able to reap what they sew.