50 New Bicycles Earned with Handmade Blankets

Today, in a village near the quiet rural town of Groot Marico in South Africa’s North West province, a group of smiling women is gathered to receive the fruits of their labour. In exchange for the handmade crocheted blankets, scarves and beanies that they have created in bright wool colours, these women will receive Qhubeka Bicycles, 20 of which have been funded by global law firm Ropes & Gray, with the remaining 30 funded by individuals who have donated or fundraised for Qhubeka.

The Blankets for Bicycles programme is a work-to-earn programme implemented by Qhubeka’s Partner, Madikwe Rural Development Program (MRDP).

Itumeleng Mmapaletsebe-Modutwane (aka Tumi), who helps to manage the Blankets for Bicycles programme, explains that MRDP supplies the crochet needle and balls of wool (28 in total) at the lowest possible fee to women who register with the programme, along with instructions to create two blankets, two scarves and a beanie. When women have finished making these items, they hand them in to MRDP, where they are recorded, and a bicycle is ordered.

“The programme is popular because most women in the community are not working, so they are not earning,” explains Tumi. “There are few activities for women to do here. The ladies enjoy crocheting because they do it together and it gives them a chance to socialise. It also helps with women empowerment. I am passionate about women empowerment, so I hope this project continues!”

Some of the women involved in the programme have earned a number of bicycles. Many choose to keep one for their family, and sell or trade the others for goods, livestock or cash.

“The Blankets for Bicycles programme helps women in rural communities to put their skills to use and provides a means of earning bicycles (which in turn can generate an income) in a region where unemployment is very high and opportunities are few and far between,” says Tsatsi Phaweni, Qhubeka Executive Director. “We’ve seen the programme grow very quickly over the past couple of years as word spreads, and we’ve heard stories of how women are using bicycles to help their children get to school, and then even to pay for their school fees. We’re grateful to partners like Ropes & Gray, and our donors and fundraisers, who help us to move communities forward with bicycles.”

“As an avid cyclist, I have seen the great efforts of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka to help support the Qhubeka charity. We approached Qhubeka to be the beneficiary of a recent client event, resulting in our donation of multiple bicycles as part of the Blankets for Bicycles programme for South African women. Ropes & Gray is very proud to be partnering with Qhubeka to support their efforts to use bicycles to change lives,” says Phil Sanderson, Global Co-Chair of Private Equity, Ropes & Gray.