Honouring Exceptional Women

“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women,” Kofi Annan, past Secretary-General of the United Nations
With women representing over 95% of the beneficiaries in the MRP Foundation Jump Start skills development programme, we truly believe that women can make a massive difference in breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality.

Phelokazi Gxaba is just one of the remarkable MRP Foundation beneficiaries that we’re highlighting this Women’s Day. Her determination and ambition are just some of the reasons why Phelo is able to map out her path on her retail journey. Photo: MRP Foundation / Pierre Tostee


It is a well-known fact that when women are educated and empowered the benefits are multiplied throughout whole communities. With women representing over 95% of the beneficiaries in our Jump Start skills development programme we truly believe that women can make a massive difference in breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality.

Throughout Women’s Month we are honouring some exceptional women that have joined hands with MRP Foundation and we’re extremely proud to be a small part of Jump Start graduate, Phelokazi Gxaba’s, journey to a successful career in retail. Thirty-year-old Phelo, as she is known to her friends and colleagues, is a Trainee Footwear Technologist for MRP but just a few years ago her life was headed in a completely different direction.

Born and raised in Mthatha, Phelo is the youngest of six siblings. After completing both her primary and high schooling in her hometown, Phelo fell pregnant whilst studying first-year Business Management at an FET College in Mthatha. At the time, she thought continuing her studies would be pointless and dropped out.

She began working as a cashier at Musica but this was short-lived: “I worked at Musica for just three months, but in my heart, I still wanted to study,” she says. “So I left my baby with my mum to follow my dream.”

The quick learner refused to give up on herself even when things looked bleak, firmly believing that, “your choices determine your future.” In 2015 she completed the MRP Foundation Pre-Production Programme while completing her National Diploma in Clothing Management.

The dynamic programme offered Phelo the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and critical skills in the local footwear manufacturing sector and hopefully provide a foot in the door to the world of manufacturing. She admits that patience and hard work were some of the things she learnt from the programme and advises future Jump Starters to grasp every little thing they’re taught. After the programme ended Phelo was unemployed for a few months, searching earnestly for a job to support her child and family.

In March 2016 Phelo successfully applied for a trainee footwear technologist position at the MRP head office in Durban with a dream of ultimately becoming a footwear buyer. As there is a shortage of qualified footwear technologists worldwide, Phelo was bought onto the team as an understudy to Tony Vaubell, Senior Footwear Technologist at MRP, to be trained specifically for the specialised role.

Tony sees Phelo as an invaluable part of the tight-knit team saying:

“Phelo started with us at the entry level, doing data capturing and inspection reports, while slowly learning and watching day-to-day tasks of both my assistant and myself. She came from a factory environment so she has robust knowledge of footwear machinery and she often surprises me with her invaluable knowledge”.

For the motivated young professional, Jump Start helped her gain a sense of independence.

“I am now employed and able to pay my own rent because of the programme. I can also support my mum and daughter back home. But I really would love to bring my child here, to live with me.”

We’re so proud of Phelo’s positive attitude and her commitment to her carving out a career path and we wish her well in her future endeavours!

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