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Bracelets for Pearl

When KT Swart’s colleague and friend, Pearl, was killed, @m.y.g.i.r.l.p.e.a.r.l was born

KT Swart has a heart of gold. And the bracelets to match! Her Instagram-based business @m.y.g.i.r.l.p.e.a.r.l was founded after her friend and shop manager Pearl was tragically murdered. Pearl – Hlengiwe Msimango – was the mother of two small children, and KT has made it her mission to help support them – hence the birth of her business where she sells customisable, multicoloured bracelets, with all proceeds going to helping Pearl’s children.

“I met Pearl when she was working at a shop in Rosebank and we just clicked. I offered her a job and she handed in her resignation the very next day, and came to work for me in Birdhaven (at KT’s former clothing shop). As my manager, my sidekick, my right hand, I saw her every single day for four years. She was my everything.”

Pearl was tragically shot by her partner, whose trial was scheduled for last month. KT arranged for Ulrich Roux Attorneys to represent Pearl’s family, which they are doing pro bono. “When he was first arrested, I phoned every single newspaper I could think of to try and get this into the news, to try and make it a big thing, because I’m tired of men getting away with this. And this is why I’ve become an advocate against femicide. I think because it’s suddenly touched me so close to home. My husband supports me fully. I go to every single court date,” KT explains.

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“I’m lucky that I’m a stay-at-home mom. I closed my business because Pearl was going on maternity leave and I didn’t want to get another manager, and I had just had Ruby, my daughter. Our kids were basically the same age. I said to her, ‘let’s close the shop, regroup in two years’ time, when our kids are at school and we can open up somewhere fresh.’ Then lockdown hit, and Pearl was shot and killed on 3 August, 2020.”

In the midst of all this tragedy, where did the idea for these beautiful bracelets come from? “I did a memorial service for her at the centre and I was going to make everyone pearl bracelets, just in memory of her. I bought all these pearls but then at the last minute, the priest said that they couldn’t help me, so I was going to do the whole service on my own and I didn’t have time to make the bracelets so these pearls sat in my house for about six months. I had gone out and opened a bank account for the kids the day after she was shot. People were donating. People were incredible from the beginning, but I wanted to give something back to them for their donation. I’d never made a bracelet in my life!”

KT started small and then the business boomed. “I started selling to my friends, getting donations and using these pearls that I had from her memorial service. Then I sourced these beads that I love, and now it’s become sensation. People have gone mad for it.” One glance at her Instagram page proves the popularity – people buy multiple colours to stack, and even buy bracelets as party favours. KT uses the proceeds to pay the children’s school fees as well as their food, clothes, and anything else that they need. “They have a nanny that is helping them and the aunt who looks after them. They love her. I pay for this through the business, so it’s a complete NPO. I don’t know how expensive education is going to be. I will encourage them to study as far as they can. I would love to see them go to university,” KT says.

So how can you support? Search for ‘My Girl Pearl’ on Instagram and DM the customisation and the colours you would like. “Most people send screenshots of what they want,” KT explains.

If it takes a while for KT to reply, or for your bracelets to get to you, please be patient. It’s time-intensive for KT, but the purpose of her initiative keeps her going. “My kids are at school from eight until twelve, and that’s when I do beading and admin, as well as at night when my children are sleeping. It’s been pretty tough balancing everything. I try stick to only mornings but sometimes it does go a bit over. Maybe after the court case I will have more time but for now I’m just pumping these bracelets out to try create awareness of gender-based violence, and about the court case, and to have as many people backing us as possible.”

To support KT’s initiative, raise awareness against gender-based violence and support Pearl’s children, head to www.instagram.com/m.y.g.i.r.l.p.e.a.r.l. Each bracelet is R100, courier anywhere in South Africa is R70 extra and all proceeds go to Pearl’s family.

* Text: TAYLA BLAIRE. Photo: MEGAN BRETT.

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