How big can you dream? Wings please…

The women making a difference with #GirlsToWomenUnderwear, from left, are, Marthie Nel Hauptfleisch, Mariana van Wyk, Ragel Daars, Sarah Daniels, Claudia Konicke of Cloud Rosa, reusable sanitary pads activist Nelda Hart, and Lucelle Visagie. In front are Magdalene Goeieman and Chriselene Davids who is the womens needlework and community facilitator.

Claudia Konicke changed my mind about throwing in the towel; in fact you should add a bedsheet and a shower curtain too, then you are in business.

She runs a business called Cloud Rosa, and her dream is to make reusable sanitary pads for women who are ready to finish their schooling, save the environment and keep money in their pockets.

She recently offered a workshop at Devon Valley to the women living on farms.

“Thank you, Mr Newman, for hand sewing machines and a roof…” Claudia was mid-sentence, and the women were already tracing, cutting, sewing because it doesn’t take much to see the benefits of a greener world.

My dream is to see each woman as a leader of her family, own community and to the next community who needs her to lead the way.

Women who are learning needlework skills, business skills, budgeting skills, dream weaving, and most importantly, influencing the more than 30 young primary school girls eagerly waiting for a chance to see what goes on behind the closed door.

Their homework is to design and draw their own outfits. Outfits that one day may become the next fashion statement on a catwalk.

But how did this all come about?

I crossed paths with Chriselene Davids about three years ago when she invited me to be the master of ceremonies at her first concert which included solo, choir, group and drama performances from community members she motivated and trained to be preformers on stage.

She was bold and rented the Japie Krige hall at Paul Roos Gimnasium and for the first time the people living on farms were invited to see their own community perform on a big stage. I saw there was a lot of talent.

One day I was walking in Stellenbosch Square when Nelda Hart greeted me eagerly: “Marthie. reusable sanitary pads: we have to make them.” Now I was merrily minding my own business marketing my upcoming house concerts so pads were not exactly on my to-do list.

Chriselene lost her job and was very keen to start her own business in uplifting the community.

I knew she would make a great success of it because she has the heart for her community and if she could deliver a three-hour professional concert with farmworkers and their children of such high quality anything is possible. She wanted to start a needlework project with other unemployed women.

My next stop was Vlottenburg Primary where I discovered similar problems and a secretary who would love help in sponsoring the new girls-turned-women in primary school’s sanitary and hygiene needs: she was paying for all of the materials out of her own pocket and dispensing the sanitary pads out of her bottom desk drawer at the front office.

Reginald Newman, the principal of Devonvalley Primary School, said he wanted to leave a legacy of making a difference in the community he serves as a headmaster. And he had twenty sewing machines collecting dust.

So Chriselene and I dusted of the sewing machines, Mr Newman gave us the space in which to work and the Faber factory donated bags full of off-cut material and thus was born #GirlsToWomenUnderwear.

Everybody had to wait for me to finish my Woordfees show so we could run with the project full steam.

My holidays was spent making period underwear and on my return I heard of Claudia Konicke of Cloud Rosa and within days of our meeting the first workshop was held, the needlework women are zipping through material and it looks like the project has wings.

Abigail Kwaza finished her social work degree last year, and I was following her progress as we were friends on Facebook. I then spotted her happily handing out pads to girls, and she was very good at it too:she really made me smile.

I realised that she would be the brilliant spokesperson and collaborator in this project. She couldn’t make the workshop but we did hand her her first reusable sanitary pad starter pack. We are hoping she will be switching from disposable to reusable soon.

My sister always says: a mother loves you but a dad will give you wings.

So this is the official welcome to the #GirlsToWomenUnderwear venture.

So here we are: we are ready to make a great success of the first production house of underwear: making reusable sanitary pads(incontinence pads, baby diapers, pull up trainer underwear, underwear – sexy, postpartum underwear for people of all walks of life: solutions to problems and creating jobs).

May you be inspired to watch, jump in and send your towels, linens, shower curtains, thread, Velcro, scissors, sewing machines and odd socks our way because we have work to do.

We are starting with a big bang, with eager hands and women with a dream and responsibility to know that they are learning with the aim to pass it on to others.

We want to make it great so other communities in Stellenbosch and beyond can come and learn from us and be great copycats in creating their own successful ventures in their communities.

I am very proud to be part of this project. I hope we will soon also involve the men in ventures they will feel empowered with.

These products must go to the world and bring new money into our country, creating new jobs and a niche market the world is waiting for.

Anybody who would like to contribute to #GirlsToWomenUnderwear venture can call 083 767 2701 or email marthie@marthienel.com

Marthie Nel Hauptfleisch lives in Stellenbosch, and is a registered nurse, a musician and social activist, and specialises in foot care for the elderly and infirm.