Real change is hard, and change in South Africa is no exception. Crime, poverty, corruption, litter, poaching, mindsets, speedo’s… The need for change is everywhere but maybe one of the reasons it isn’t happening fast enough is because we don’t always believe we can help.
Expand a Sign decided to change that and formed Uzwelo Bags, to focus on what we can do instead of what we can’t. We asked ourselves what our beautiful country could look like if we worked together, building opportunities not just for ourselves, but for those around us and their communities. We dreamed and spoke about how lives could change, how families could be empowered and how communities could be uplifted and brought out of poverty through skill development, entrepreneurship, education and giving people real hope. We looked at our own lives, businesses and communities and slowly, an idea dawned…
What if we used our waste fabric that normally goes into landfills to make functional, stylish and affordable bags of all shapes and sizes? And what if we trained people to make them, in their communities as an entrepreneurial opportunity? And what if some of those profits went into supporting and environmental non-profit already doing good work? It almost seemed too good to be true, but we had to try. The desire and need for change, however daunting, was too big.
Through the support, expertise and insight of those around us who wanted to be a part of making SA a better place, our vision started to take shape. We prototyped bag designs, engaged non-profits and communities, explored skills development programs and encountered local heroes of positive change. Stories of hope and opportunity to make a real difference became a daily experience.
We are now armed for change with a range of unique and truly South African bags (literally, each one is different) that are fashionable, durable and cater for every aspect of South African life from fashion to shopping, travel to work, sport and school.
We have a team of 3 trained ladies from iBhungezi/Philangethemba Trust (Molweni-Valley of 100 hills) 3 ladies at the LIV Village, and 2 ladies from iThembalethu (Cato Manor). Each one of these are now producing bags and earning a living that puts food on the table for their families, funds education and provides dignity and up-liftment for their communities long-term.
We’ve also partnered with the Bateleurs, an NPO that provides SA with an aerial perspective of the environment. They are involved in multiple diverse missions of sustainable environmental and development policies and programs, and UZWELO is proud to be associated with all that they do through donating a portion of the proceed from sales to their cause.
Even though the journey is just beginning, the greatest experience we’ve had so far is the realisation that we all have an opportunity to contribute and make a difference in this beautiful country, and all it takes is to care a little bit more today than you did yesterday.
The only real thing standing in our way is our attitude.
If our bags can have an impact, is there something in your bag that can make a difference too?