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All Zulucow’s cowhide rugs are sustainably sourced by-products, individually picked for their beauty and quality. They are unique because of their provenance: sustainably-sourced from the Nguni cattle which have been bred for centuries, by the Zulus, for their meat and beautiful hides (used in ceremonial clothing and shields.) They are also creating desperately-needed skills and long term employment for Zulus in rural South Africa, which has well over 70% unemployment and few job opportunities.
When we first visited the workshop, 8 years ago, I was blown away by the welcome Ma Beatrice, Lihle, Ma Philippine, Boaster and the rest of the Zulucow craftswomen and men gave us. Ma Beatrice ran over to me, gave me one of her huge bear hugs and said:“Ngiyakuthanda wena” (We love you Lucy!) I was flabbergasted; not realising that my (then small) orders were making such a difference to her and her family’s life. In a country where unemployment is officially 26% but rockets up to 70% in the rural areas; jobs are like gold dust; let alone sustainable, long term jobs with valuable skills development.
Recently I was talking to a South African businesswoman who was in the UK for business. I said I didn’t think that Zulucow was doing enough to help the ladies and men in the workshop in S.A who are tanning our hides and making our products, so masterfully. I wanted to donate some money to them. She stopped me: “No!” she said: “The craftswomen and men do not want hand-outs. They know that gifts of money don’t help; the money has no long term benefits for them. They want the employment Zulucow and other small businesses are providing them; the sustainable, reliable jobs; the consistent, above-average living wage; so they can plan ahead; feed and educate their children; buy seed for their plots and chickens for protein for their children.”
Following many conversations with the Zulu craftswomen over the years; I know they value the training and new skills they are learning in the workshop when making Zulucow’s cowhide accessories. The men want to learn the processes involved in properly tanning the Nguni cowhide rugs; and the ladies are keen to learn how to finely cut leather and use sewing machines skilfully to make our collection of handbags, purses and cushions. They have told me that through the training and skills development in the workshop; they feel empowered. They know they have better prospects when looking for other jobs; and that has got to be better than any handout.
I’m proud that (in a small way,) Zulucow has helped to empower the ladies who make Zulucow’s cowhide accessories. Lindiwe, Thandi and Gloria told me that the living wage they derive from their jobs, gives them independence; the ability to control their home finances and care for their children when sadly the majority (not all) of their husbands are unreliable or absent.
Frequently, I learnt, from talking to the ladies, that men in these remote, rural areas (where there are few jobs); go to Johannesburg to try and find work; but never return (meeting other women and setting up second families and homes there.) The ladies know, that they and their families will be stronger if they can provide the living wage on which to rely upon. I’m extremely proud that through your purchases, my loyal, Zulucow customers, we are doing just that.
Every time you order a Zulucow handbag, rug, cushion or accessory; you are making a considerable difference to the lives of these talented Zulu ladies and men. Thank you for supporting Zulucow