WHO ARE THE CHIN?
For a group of Chin refugee women living in Kuala Lumpur, the traditional skills they learnt at home have become a way to earn a safe and secure income.
Gaining a formal education isn't an option for most Chin women. The North West region of Myanmar is remote and lacks many of the most basic services. Parents cannot afford to send young girls away to study. Instead, they spend their time learning traditional crafts, such as sewing and weaving. Acquiring these skills is not a only a rite of passage, but an important step in preserving local traditions and culture.
The Chin, devout Christians, are one of the most persecuted minority groups in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation. Thousands of Chin refugees have fled Myanmar in the hope of finding a safe and peaceful life. Like all refugees living in Malaysia, they have little or no legal rights and they face a constant threat of arrest and deportation.
The refugees and their children, many of them born in Malaysia, do not have access to health care or education services. They cannot legally work, so many turn to illegal, poorly paid and often dangerous means to support their families. Employment opportunities are sporadic, unregulated, conditions aren’t safe and pay can be withheld or delayed for no reason. It is especially dangerous for women and children, who are vulnerable to sex and gender based violence
Mang Tha is a women's artisan workshop established in 2006 by Chin refugee women, with the help of the ACR (Alliance of Chin Refugees). From a loom they imported from Myanmar, they started to produce longyi, a traditional piece of clothing, with the weaving skills they learnt in their homeland.
Today, Mang Tha has grown in size and skill. The artisans create expertly crafted bags, purses, pencil cases, table runners, cushion cases, yoga bags and more. All of the products are handmade and fair-trade.
According to the unhcr* there are 38,200 Chin refugees registered in Malaysia. The number of UNCHR cards issued has plummeted in recent years, indicating that this number may be significantly higher.
Between 30 to 45 women receive a monthly income at Mang Tha.
The funds generated support sewing, embroidery and english classes, an emergency fund and the onsite nursery.
To date, Mang Tha has helped more than 400 women, their families and the broader community.
The community centre is a secure haven where women and children find protection and safety.
The women are paid for a fair and honest wage for their work.