How to Help: Unilever brightFuture

A few months back I heard about an amazing South African invention that fills an essential need for young children – not only does it give them a school bag, it also provides them with a safe lighting solution by which they can do their homework. As you know one of the biggest social challenges South African’s are facing at the moment is load shedding and rural communities are the hardest hit due to the unsafe lighting sourcing they use like open flames and paraffin.

Unilever has recently partnered with Rethaka, a company founded by 18 year old South African Thato Kgathlhanye, to tackle these social problems as part of the brightFuture campaign.

This brilliant young lady, now just 22, was concerned about the societal problems facing children especially the lack of basic school materials and no source of light by which to study at night. In addition, she was also concerned about the plastic pollution which was a big problem where she grew up in the township of Mogwase, just outside Rustenburg. Both of these concerns led to her creating a repurposed school bag, made from recycled and reinforced plastic shopping bags with a pouch on the top to hold a Consol solar jar lid which then gets powered while the learners walk to and from school so that when the children get home their Consol jars provide light for the entire home and for them to study for between 6-8 hours!

bright start back packs


These incredible backpacks, which only cost R250 each, also have reflectors on them so that the children are more visible at night. How genius! It’s no wonder her incredible initiative even got the likes of Bill Gates talking on Twitter!

What makes Thato’s story even better is that the Rethaka factory in Rustenburg currently employs 17 full time staff members and, in order to achieve their goal of creating 10 000 repurposed school bags by the end of 2015, Rethaka are hoping to increase their staff compliment to 20 by the end of the year!


To find out more about Rethaka, what this video where Thato explains the manufacturing process of these repurposed bags.

I think you’ll agree with me when I say that the future of South Africa looks bright with incredible young leaders like Thato making a difference like this. Thato truly represents the industrious and creative spirit that Unilever hopes to inspire with the brightFuture campaign, wouldn’t you agree?




The good news is that Unilever want us all to celebrate #brightFutureSA and they have given me R2500 to give away to someone who YOU nominate as a young leader who has inspired YOU through their commitment to sustainability and improving the lives of ordinary South Africans through their innovative ideas and dedication to see the possibilities and get involved in making a difference.

Nominate your favourite young person by leaving a comment below and I’ll choose the winner from these suggestions. The nominated person will receive a R2 500 donation to their sustainability initiative and if you were the one who nominated them you will receive a Unilever product hamper!   Ends Friday 28 Aug 2015.


brightFuture is a global initiative by Unilever. The aim of the campaign is to celebrate Young Leaders in various fields in South Africa and around the world, with a special focus on those who are creating creative solutions to the world’s challenges! The brightFuture website is a great hub for people who are keen to get involved, be inspired and take action in small ways in their daily lives to make a difference to others.


Images: Unilever & Consol

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Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

  1. Hi…
    I would like to nominate 3 little boys with big dreams.
    They’ve actively been involved in social upliftment projects, in their small Mpumalanga town, through an organisation they’ve established called “g.i.v.e”.
    From having bought and distributed blankets and care hampers to the homeless, to initiating a “just 1 bag” campaign in their school, to give food items to kids at a local Aids orphanage, they do so with care and enthusiasm.
    A proud moment this year was when they secured some much needed sporting equipment for their school as well as the Aids orphanage, through their recycling efforts.
    A wheelchair donation to the old age home, dental care hampers and computer classes for those without access, are still on their agenda.
    An acknowledgement by Unilever would go along way in motivating these 3 future leaders to continue on their good work. No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted…

    1. Wow this is an amazing story. Thanks so much for sharing it here. They certainly sound like worthy recipients of the prize.

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