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Personalised book bags advocate against Gender-Based Violence

Updated: Jun 12

by Gerrit Bester

In a heartfelt demonstration of compassion and commitment to making a difference, second-year Fashion Design students at the Tshwane University of Technology’s Department of Design Studies undertook a meaningful simulated Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) project focused on addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in affected communities in Tshwane.

As part of the project, they designed personalised book bags to raise awareness of GBV. They used sustainable materials that they had personally collected, demonstrating their commitment to environmental sustainability, which is a focus of their course.

Three groups, totalling 56 students, each selected a community affected by GBV to donate bags to in May. This decision reflects their desire to approach their outreach efforts with a sense of compassion and empathy.

The groups visited the Potters House in Burgerspark Lane, Boitumelo Children’s Home in Block X in Soshanguve and Tshwane Haven in Waterkloof where they donated the bags, stationary, clothes, sanitary pads and interacted with residents.

Tshwane Leadership Foundation is an inner-city community organisation committed to socially inclusive urban transformation since 1993. There are fifteen innovative programmes for vulnerable populations, including Potters House, a residential care programme for women-in-crisis and their children, and a drop-in centre for women on the street.

Boitumelo Children’s Home in Soshanguve, Pretoria, houses 42 children, aged one to 19 years, who have faced extreme hardships and dire living conditions. Established by Sophie Msiza in 2000, the home began with five children rescued from the streets of Pretoria. Sophie, a passionate mother to many, is assisted by six volunteer caregivers and relies on community sponsorships and donations to provide a basic home environment, aiming to offer the children a brighter future through education.

Started in 2007, Tshwane Haven provides a safe home environment for abandoned, abused, traumatised, orphaned, sick and HIV-positive babies and children.


“The project not only served as a practical application of students’ studies but also empowered them to be agents of change within their communities,” says RoseMary Naidoo, Lecturer at the Department of Design Studies and WIL coordinator, who spearheaded the project.

“Through this initiative, the students not only contributed tangible resources but also raised awareness and promoted dialogue around the critical issue of GBV. It highlighted the students' commitment to social responsibility, sustainable practices and community engagement, showcasing the transformative potential of WIL programmes in fostering compassionate and proactive citizens,” RoseMary adds.

When asked about their participation in the project, students shared their gratitude for the opportunity to work on projects that have a profound impact and combine elements of art and activism.

“Supporting women affected by GBV has been a profound and humbling experience for us. It was a privilege to provide the ladies with our bags and to be present with them, sharing in their journey of recovery and empowerment. Witnessing their strength and resilience has deeply moved us, and we are honoured to contribute to their healing process,” says Gift Malapane.

"Watching the kids happy and enthusiastic, showing us love, was the best feeling ever. It was then I understood all my hard work was worthwhile. I felt extremely privileged and significant in this world, realising even a small gift can make a difference in someone's life, and their smiles can heal one's heart," says Siyabonga Ndaba.

"The project, from beginning to end, was a journey of unity and character development. Working with classmates of different ages, but sharing the same vision, was amazing. This experience gave me newfound respect for my classmates and their humanity. The visit day was a reality shock but also a soothing moment of joy, putting a smile on someone’s face through fashion," concludes Tshepang Phakathi.

Fashion Design students and lecturer, RoseMary Naidoo, during their visit to Potters House, Burgerspark Lane.

The visit to Boitumelo Children’s Home in Soshanguve.

Fashion Design students and lecturer, RoseMary Naidoo, at  Tshwane Haven

Fashion Design students and lecturer, RoseMary Naidoo, at  Tshwane Haven.

Students connected with residents and staff of the Tshwane House reflecting their desire to approach their outreach efforts with a sense of compassion and empathy.

PHOTOS: Gerrit Bester and Mandla Phalatsi



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