“I had to rely on my husband since we married, so now I am happy to earn money. Now, we are saving for my son's future and it makes me feel so pleased.” Eindray
Eindray, 28, lives in Rakhine State, Myanmar, with her husband and five-year old son. She is one of 30 women enrolled in a livelihood project implemented by Community Partners International partner Precious Lady, that teaches sewing and handicraft skills, provides them with sewing machines and raw materials, offers basic sales and marketing training, and helps them to access markets where they can sell their products.
Kyi San Lwin, General Secretary and Program Coordinator for Precious Lady, explains their approach. “Most women here are unemployed,” she reveals. “They have no jobs and no income. When we consulted with them, they told us that they would like to earn money to support their families. They asked us to teach them sewing, handicrafts and accessory making.”
“We started the project in May 2021,” she continues. “From the applicants, we selected women who expressed a strong interest, had experienced financial hardship, and could participate for the long run. With CPI’s support we trained them, lent them sewing machines and provided the raw materials they needed free of charge.”
With Precious Lady’s help, the women produce a wide range of items including bags, keychains, purses, handbags, backpacks, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and knitted accessories. Precious Lady also helps the women to sell their products. “We have our own little shop in Ngapali Beach [a popular tourist destination on the Bay of Bengal] so we buy products from them to sell at our shop. We also connect them with other shops and markets where they can sell their products.”
The project has helped Eindray and other women develop an important source of income. “I earn a profit of about 200,000 - 300,000 Myanmar Kyats [US$112 - $170] each month from this work. In the best months, I can earn around 400,000 Kyats [US$225]. That is really an unexpected amount for me,” she confirms. “My son is in kindergarten. Now I can support the tuition fees for his English class and I can buy him stationery and other things that he needs. I feel like we can now dream of giving our son a good education."
When a devastating third wave of COVID-19 struck Myanmar in July 2021, Community Partners International and Precious Lady adapted project activities to support COVID-19 response. “With the funding support from CPI, we trained 20 women to produce cloth face masks, hand sanitizer, and soap and we paid them for the items that they produced. Then we distributed these items free of charge to 250 households in five villages in this area.” These activities helped women during a time when COVID-19 lockdowns, travel restrictions and political unrest were significantly affecting their ability to earn income.
Based on the success of the project, Kyi San Lwin is keen to expand Precious Lady’s activities to support more women in need. “When women are able to earn income, I can feel their joy. This is really a visible impact of the project. With CPI’s support, we’d like to develop more training courses in 2022 for making sandals and “thanakha” [a paste made from ground bark used as a cosmetic in Myanmar]. We are also planning to host exhibitions with the products made by women that we support."