Sewing hope

By CARE Australia September 30, 2015 0 comments
A woman standing next to a vehicle loaded with fabric scraps in Myanmar.

With help from CARE's Improving Access to Safe Employment for Migrant Women project, Daw Tin Aye is building a brighter future for her family. © CARE

Determined to build a better future for her kids, a combination of entrepreneurial instincts and CARE-supported training means mother of five Daw Tin Aye is now sewing a brighter future – one fabric scrap at a time.

When single mum Daw Tin Aye arrived in Mandalay – the second-largest city in Myanmar – she didn’t know a soul. Lacking formal education she had little skills and qualifications and struggled to find work to support her children.

Like many unskilled migrant workers she ended finding labouring work on a construction site. She worked long hours doing backbreaking work for very little pay. She would often take home the equivalent to around USD $0.80 per day.

But after living in Mandalay for six months, Daw Tin Aye had a lightbulb moment. She noticed someone buying fabric scraps off a seamstress. When she asked what they were doing with the scraps they told her they were using them as pillow stuffing. She realised buying and re-selling fabric scraps could provide her with another source of income.

So while Daw Tin Aye already worked six days a week at the construction site, on her only day off she began to purchase fabric scraps from tailors and seamstresses to resell. By buying the scraps for a certain amount and reselling them for double, she was soon able to make around USD $1.60 – $2.40 per day.

However being the sole breadwinner for her family was tough. While Daw Tin Aye was earning enough to get by, she wasn’t able to save any money. When her rent went up by 25 per cent, she began to worry how she would provide for her children.

Luckily she was able to seek help from a CARE-supported project which offers support to migrant women like Daw Tin Aye who may have little financial or social support. The project helps improve access to safe employment options by providing small business training as well as access to finance.

With the help of the project Daw Tin Aye was able to secure a no-interest loan which she used to set up her own pillow-making business. She used the money to buy a sewing machine and also converted the ground floor of her home into a shop to sell her wares.

“Attending CARE’s small business skills training provided me with new ideas and helped me gain confidence to promote my business,” Daw Tin Aye explains. Having no previous experience sewing didn’t even hold her back. “I learnt by observing other seamstresses,” she says. “I also took apart pillow cases to work out how it was sewed and put together.”

Having already repaid her loan in full, this newfound confidence means the sky is the limit for Daw Tin Aye.

She has also expanded her business by having a stall at the local market. She says there she sells her pillows for slightly less, but in larger quantities. “My business now generates around 100,000 kayts profit [approximately USD $77] per month.” This means the mother of five can meet her rent as well as put away extra for a rainy day.

Daw Tin Aye is now hopeful for her future. She wants to save up to buy a house to give her family more security. She says “My biggest dream is for my children to get an education and have a better future”.

You can help women like Daw Tin Aye today by making a donation to CARE.

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