Threading portable skills into our communities

When Alinah Jafta (23) from the township of Bapong finished her schooling, she found herself at a loss as to where to go next. She did her best to find employment opportunities, but had no success.

It was only by chance that she heard about the portable skills training programme at Lonmin from some of the other girls in Mooinooi, who knew others who had participated in the programme before. “So, I went to the Lonmin community offices to find out about it, and saw that you could do a programme in sewing. I always loved sewing so that was what I wanted to do. They gave us some forms to fill in, so we did that and I waited to be contacted,” Alinah explains, with a big smile on her face. “They told me that I was too young for the programme, but they allowed me to apply anyway.”

Alinah soon received an sms, telling her that despite her age, she had been accepted for the seven-week long portable skills training programme. She was thrilled.

The course began in August 2012 and was run in partnership with Goldfields. Transport and accommodation for Alinah and her classmates was arranged as part of the programme and they each received an old sewing machine to start working with when they went home.

Alinah’s first job was a graduation dress for her sister’s little daughter. She didn’t ask for any payment, but word began to spread and soon she was making dresses for her neighbours, her friends, and others in the community who had heard about her work. In no time at all, this has led to landing bigger jobs, such as a set of 40 school skirts, which Alinah donated to Segwetlhane Primary School near her house. She has made church uniforms as well and another 38 dance outfits for a traditional dance teacher in the village.

Alinah works from a small room inside her home in Majakeneng, where she lives with her parents, her sister Anna, and Anna’s two children. Her parents are extremely proud of her. “I think sewing is a thread in our home,” says Alinah’s mother, a certified traditional healer, who gives her name only as Moeder Jafta. “My grandmother, myself, we were all good at sewing. It makes me so happy that Alinah has got this opportunity with the training programme. She must keep going forward now. She must not stop.”

Alinah’s father Jeffrey has worked for Lonmin’s community department as a sports coach at the Wonderkop Stadium for over 25 years. “I am so proud of her,” he says, “and we are so grateful to Lonmin. Life is very difficult, but you must not say what you don’t have. You have to do something about it.”

Like so many of the young stars who have benefitted from our community skills development programmes, Alinah has certainly done that.