Women taking on the toilet paper industry
South Africa has seen a steady rise in women’s contribution to national economies – with women becoming leading industry players in their respective sectors including manufacturing that was formally reserved for men. South African women have become incredibly business savvy, determined and resilient, and many have created a name for themselves in the business world. While some have succeeded by moving up the corporate ladder, others have made it through entrepreneurship. Women pioneers are gradually dismantling, if not smashing, the glass ceiling. Women are making their mark in a wide range of manufacturing environments.
Manufacturing faces a serious skills gap. Part of this gap is the underrepresentation of women in the industry. One of the many women making great strides in the manufacturing industry is 34-year-old Northern Cape based – Keamogetse Setshedi who has built the thriving toilet paper manufacturing business – La Pempa from the ground up. Setshedi says she has always had aspirations for breaking in the male dominated franchising industry, but toilet paper manufacturing proved to be an easily accessible stepping stone into franchising. “I’ve always wanted to go into franchising but it’s so difficult to get into that space. I decided to go into manufacturing and then at a later stage I can franchise my product,” Setshedi explained.
“One of the obstacles I’ve faced is the negative mindset of people around here. If you’re not white owned or a known brand, then they will automatically look down on you. So we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding and learning to support each other,” Setshedi continued. Setshedi was one of the Youth Northern Cape MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Mac Jack had praised in his maiden budget speech in June citing that her idea to produce locally sourced toilet paper was brilliant. Setshedi was honoured to receive such a positive reaction from a senior government official saying that this gives her hope that she would receive government support.
As we commemorate the brave women who, in 1956, stood up to an unjust regime, let us take that spirit forward and support today’s women who are also challenging unequal and hard-to-access work environments and creating opportunities for the women of tomorrow.