A blog by Wandisile Sebezo
Toy Project Empowers and Creates Jobs for Women in Green Valley, Plett
In times where it’s every man for himself, it’s really rare to find people doing amazing work for the betterment of others and the community they live in, but if one dares look deep enough, you come across initiatives like the Toy Project in Plettenberg Bay, down in Green Valley, where women empowerment means community development.
“The Toy Project is a skills-and-employment initiative for previously unemployed women living in the Groenfontein Valley outside Calitzdorp in the Little Karoo, and the Wittedrift community outside Plettenberg Bay in the Garden Route,” reads the website of the Toy Project.
The project started out in Calitzdorp and made its way down to Plett. Unfortunately, due to COVID, they had to close the Calitzdorp workshop, which meant more focus was given to the workshop right here in our beautiful bay.
Over coffee, the Toy Project Co-Founder, Renee Leger, a fine arts and interior design graduate, who was with her assistant Elzette Mostert, told me that they get to kill many birds with one stone; to provide unemployed women with a steady income while also capacitating them with the necessary technical know-how in the process.
However, they’re not just making toys for the fun of it; the project also doubles as an awareness campaign about the endangered species on the brink of extinction, like the rhino.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disturbed a lot of amazing work and robbed many people of their livelihoods; the Toy Project was not to be spared, but through it all, they have survived. The project works with only women, usually 10, but had to scale down to six due to business being slow as a result of COVID.
The toys are hand-made from start to finish. The fabric used is Shweshwe which is a printed, dyed cotton most used for traditional clothing in Southern Africa, and the Mungo linen, which they source from our very own Mungo Mill and Shop in Plett at Old Nick Village.
These handmade toys, made by women from previously disadvantaged communities has attracted high-end décor shops, domestic and international tourists alike. By all standards, this is a great achievement, and one that other community projects should emulate.
The Toy Project reminds us that people, equipped with the right technical skills and a bit of a push, can do much better in improving not just their family livelihoods, but inspire hope into their communities as well.