AFTER noticing that his female relatives were finding it difficult to buy sanitary towels each month owing to their financial situation, Lwazi Mema, a fashion designer from Despatch began designing reusable sanitary towels for those in need.
In 2017, Mema completed his diploma in finance at South West Gauteng College and two years later he completed a barista course at Redband Academy in Port Elizabeth.
It was however only in 2019, when he began moving towards his passion which is fashion design.
To improve his skills as a designer, Mema learnt how to sew and design clothing at Ray Mhlaba Skills Centre in Port Elizabeth.
“Ever since I was young, fashion has always played a huge role in my life. When I was younger I began sewing my school uniform and altering my casual clothes into what I liked wearing,” he said.
Mema who designs a variety of clothing which ranges from sportswear, evening wear, cultural wear and custom designer outfits has been perfecting his craft and trying his best to understand his target market and knowing what they need.
Owing to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdown restrictions, in March this year Mema began creating and then donating masks to people in his community.
“I created my own masks and gave them to those in need and strangers who could not afford them. In Despatch I mostly donated masks to the street kids and car guards,” said Mema.
His charitable work did not stop there and instead he began creating something unique for girls and women in need.
After having discussions with his female relatives and also noticing that they were finding it difficult to buy sanitary towels each month owing to their financial situation, in April this year Mema decided to use his sewing skills to create a variety of reusable sanitary towels for them to try out.
“I was motivated to start this by my female relatives who were having a hard time getting sanitary pads. Since I knew how to sew, I decided to try to design a couple of sanitary pads for them,” he said.
With advice from his relatives, his female friends and research found on the internet, Mema continued to improve the design of his reusable sanitary towels which can last up to seven years if they is taken good care of.
In addition, Mema also received help from women who were already distributing reusable sanitary towels and were able to give him advice on what material to use and how the sanitary towels should be sewn for the best protection.
“My relatives and my friends helped me understand how menstruation works. They were also able to give me advice from a woman’s perspective to ensure that the reusable pads were of good quality,” said Mema.
He said after finding his reusable sanitary towels to be quite comfortable, Mema’s relatives have opted to continue using his reusable sanitary towles instead of disposable sanitary towels.
“My relatives love the reusable pads. After their good reviews I felt confident enough to hand out the reusable pads to those in need,” he said.
Initially, Mema distributed the reusable sanitary towels to his family members and later began distributing them to underprivileged women in various areas throughout Nelson Mandela Bay. Currently, Mema has been designing only small sizes but plans to create all sizes and a variety of shapes and designs.
The reusable sanitary towels consist of nine layers which include two layers of 100% cotton flannel, one layer of super absorbent bamboo velour, one waterproof layer, one layer of zorb material, one layer of 100% organic cotton, one layer of laminated fabric and two layers of fleece material.
Mema recently completed a two-day course with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) which will provide him with the SABS verification badge for his reusable sanitary towels early next year.
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