The Clothing Bank Expansion programme

The Clothing Bank Expansion programme

Empowering unemployed mothers through enterprise development

We don’t give people fish, we teach them how to fish and how to sell their fish. If you educate a man you educate an individual, if you educate a mother you educate a family and a nation.

Tracey Chambers – The Clothing Bank, CEO


In 2014, 68% of South African women with babies under two were single. 50% of fathers provide no financial support for their children, resulting in many children born to single mothers living in poverty, reliant on state support. Education is at the centre of these challenges: in 2011 less than a third of South Africans had completed school. This means that formal employment is hard to achieve, as an entry level requirement for even the most basic job is usually the completion of Grade 12. Unemployed South Africans need to be empowered and provided alternatives to formal employment.


  • To increase the number of new beneficiaries to be supported each year from 200 to 400.
  • To extend as well as professionalise the training curriculum and provide programme participants with 38 modules of training which include topics such as financial, business and life skills.
  • To increase the number of hours of mentoring each business owner received.
  • To pilot more micro franchise business models. The aim was to pilot at least 5 models which would be replicated at least 5 times each.
  • To test the replicability of The Clothing Bank's (TCB's) development model in other non-profit organisations and to develop a training curriculum that could be used by other non-profits supporting small business development.
  • To develop an integrated impact measurement tool which would enable beneficiaries to take responsibility for their journey out poverty and to track their progress.


  • TCB now has 5 branches of The Clothing Bank in South Africa with a national footprint, which can support up to 850 unemployed mothers at any given time. Over the 2 years of this project, 1121 unemployed mothers have been recruited to join the two year programme.
  • All of these mothers have the opportunity to participate in 35 modules of training covering topics such as financial, business and life skills. They are supported by an extensive support system which includes coaching, mentoring and counselling.
  • These women have collectively made over €3.6 million in profits over the two years.
  • 4 micro franchise models have been piloted, with 2 operating successfully and in full replication stage. Firstly, an early childhood development model which helps women establish education facilities for children aged 2-5 To date, 12 schools have been established. Secondly, an Appliance Bank model, which utilises broken home appliances donated by retail partners to help unemployed men establish small businesses by repairing and selling these. 38 business men are operating successfully today.
  • The TCB development model was tested in partnership with another NGO and could conclude that the model is able to be replicated with other NGOs who have a vision to empower the poor through sustainable small business development. The training curriculum has been professionally packaged and is available for any NGO who would like to utilise it. A partnership with two further NGOs is currently ongoing.
  • The monitoring and impact assessment tool (Poverty Stoplight) is fully integrated into the programme nationally including the beneficiary level. After 1 340 surveys, TCB can state that women who do well on the programme almost certainly eradicate poverty in their families. In addition, the tool empowers beneficiaries to understand and map their own choices, leading to a significant shift in ownership and motivation to eradicate poverty.



  • Recruited 1 121 new mothers to join the Clothing Bank programme over 2 years.
  • TCB now has the capacity to support 850 programme participants at any given time.
  • In 2 years these women collectively made profits of €3.6 million from their businesses.
  • Established 2 micro franchise models which are in full replication stage. This includes 12 Early Childhood Schools and 38 small business owners who repair and sell broken appliances.
  • Successful programme participants do eradicate poverty and exit with an average of 43 out of a possible 50 positive indicators, this is up from an average of 29 when they start the programme.


Zukiswa (Zuki) Majerman, Project Beneficiary, Small Business Owner

Zukiswa (Zuki) Majerman, 48, separated mother of two (30 & 15) with one grandchild, lives in Crossroads, Cape Town

"The day I stepped out of my abusive, aggressive marriage it was like somebody takes the cement bags off my shoulders and throws them away.
I'm on my own, I'm making my own decisions. Now I can see where I'm going. The years I stayed in my abusive marriage don’t matter. I'm not looking back at them - now I'm looking forward.  

My hard work and perseverance make me most proud. It was hard but I tell myself I will never give up on me. I tell myself that I might not be talented, but I'm a hard worker. Sometimes hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.

Life is full of challenges. Today you are happy, tomorrow you’re crying. Life goes like the weather. You must always have room to take it on, the storms, the rain, the shiny days - this is life. When challenges and disappointment come, fight and strike back.

Being in a marriage, a divorce, a separation, an abusive relationship, is not the end of the world. You fall in love and you throw your heart and soul into it. Our problem as women who are in love, we forget about anything else. But when that love is no more, that doesn't mean everything is no more. You can stand up and say: 'Hello, here I am again. I'm still that Zuki I was before. Challenges come and go, but here I am now'."