Exploring whether learning can contribute towards sustainable development : a case study of a social enterprise in the clothing and textile industry in the Western Cape

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study explores whether learning can contribute towards Sustainable Development by focusing on a Fairtrade registered social enterprise, named Shanti (pseudonym). Shanti was founded to provide unemployed and marginalised women with an opportunity to earn a living through establishing sewing cooperatives. The cooperatives are women’s worker cooperatives that are located in several townships in the Western Cape, South Africa. Through training it was intended for the women in the cooperatives and by association Shanti, to achieve Sustainable Development. The development strategy pursued by Shanti and the broad spectrum of the women’s learning was revealed. The study is inter-disciplinary and the conceptual framework therefore centered on two primary themes, namely development and learning. The development theme was divided into two sub-themes that considered mainstream and alternative development strategies. Mainstream development and the macro factors that related to it, namely globalization and neoliberalism were elucidated by theorists such as Stiglitz (2002) and Castells (1999). Of specific relevance to my study was the impact of neoliberalism on SA government policy that affected the Clothing and Textile (C&T) Industry, elaborated on by Ramdass (et al 2011) and Barnes (2005) among others. Alternatives to the mainstream, namely Sustainable Development, Fairtrade and cooperative development were proposed. The research differentiated between the general use of the term sustainable development and the holistic concept of Sustainable Development as informed by Dresner (2002). The learning theme primarily covered Prior and Experiential Learning (Fenwick 2001, Fischer 2005), as well as Women’s Learning which argues that women learn differently as a gendered group (Gallos 2000; Shrewsbury (1993). Finally the study explored issues that are particular to worker cooperatives, which were elaborated on by Philip (2003) and Lima (2007) among others.