This month we celebrated Women’s Day and so we would like to introduce to you women in our area who stand out like “tall poppies”. The term, coined (I think) by Clem Sunter, does not refer well-built “Barbies” but to those individuals who stand out above the rest.

A tall poppy” in the Scenic South is seamstress supreme, Ndileka Biyo of Masiphumelele, a woman who has strived very successfully under difficult circumstances to make a life for herself and her children.

Growing up in a talented and entrepreneurial family in the Transkei, Ndileka fell pregnant in her penultimate year at

school and stayed at home thereafter to care for her baby son and to help out at home, which she shared with six sisters and three brothers. Two years later she married, gave birth to her daughter and moved with her husband and small family to Crossroads.

Desperately concerned about the wellbeing of her children who were hungry and “suffering”, Ndileka was determined to get a qualification that would help her to support them. At the age of 28 she went back to school and passed her matric, the oldest student in the class. Asked how she felt about being so much older than her fellow students, in her characteristically positive and bright manner she responded that it was wonderful – her fellow students encouraged her and saw her through her tough times. While studying she also hired a sewing machine for R5 a day and taught herself to sew, selling the clothes she made to sustain her family.

In 2000 she enrolled for a diploma course in Fashion Design at the Peninsula Technikon. Passing 6 out of the 10 subjects in her first year, she continued with the 4 subjects she had failed – subjects which she had not had at school – in her 2nd year and went on to complete her diploma, all the while subsidising her studies through her sewing. She then registered for a B. Tech. but was unable to complete the course because of financial difficulties. Her income from sewing allowed her to attend a number of small workshops to improve her skills.

In 2006 Ndileka and her children joined her brother in Masiphumelele where she volunteered to teach beadwork and sewing at Sinethemba. She also volunteered to help at the Masiphumelele Library where she was put in charge of the computer room, helping children hone their skills.

“In Masi I began to know who I was and I discovered my strength and my power. I thank Sue Alexander (see for fostering my belief in myself. I had passion and I was happy.” Ndileka still has passion and exudes positivity.

Her sewing business took off when visiting volunteers from overseas started to buy her garments to take home with them. In 2008 Ndileka resigned from the library and rented a room in The Pink House in Masiphumelele where she set up her business. From her profits she bought herself a car, made a disastrous move setting up shop in Epping and has since set up a small shop in a ground floor market near Greenmarket Square which she hopes will succeed although she believes that more marketing needs to be done on the stallholders’ behalf.

In January this year Ndeleka was given a loan by the Masiphumelele Corporation to buy materials,equipment and to help pay for her rentals and the help of her assistants. She is determined to have enough money each month to pay off her loan as soon as possible.

You will find Ndeleka at the fresh produce and craft market held every second Friday in the Longbeach Mall and on a Saturday morning at the Tokai Fresh Produce Market.

“My ambition is to be a successful businesswoman. I would love to have fashion shows. I can see my direction and my way opening and I believe that I can do it!”

We believe so too, Ndileka!

For Ndileka’s contact details see