Over a million Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar in successive waves of displacement since the early 1990s.
The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. The latest exodus began on 25 August 2017, when violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, driving more than 750,000 people from the country.
Groups of Rohingya refugee women in Malaysia and India collaborate with MADE51 social enterprise partners on products that include holiday collection ornaments. In India, the Rohingya women are working on the Shining Halo ornament in collaboration with Lal10.
Zainab, one of the artisans, took the time this fall to share with us about her life and her work.
When did you come here and with who?
2009 with my parents from Myanmar.
Do you have children?
Yes, 3 children. Elder son Anas, 8, younger son, Yasar, 5.5, daughter, Sania, 2
How did you feel when you had to leave home?
It was very painful when we had to leave Myanmar, though I was very young to remember the exact situation. We managed to escape to Bangladesh after 2-3 days of struggle and stayed there for 2 months. My Abbu [father] worked and we collected some money and came to India.
What is your craft? How did you learn it?
In our village in Myanmar, people are involved in bamboo craft, jal making, embroidery work. I had basic knowledge of these.
What kinds of items do you usually make?
Dupatta, fan, nets, jal borders, pouches.
Why is this work important to you?
This work is important because this has given me an identity. We are able to contribute to our family income. Some of our group members are widow, this is helping them support their families.
How does working together in a group with other women make you feel?
It is a real pleasure when I am able to help my group members to make beautiful products and help them contribute to their family income. The ladies are able to sustain their families.
Specifically, for the holiday ornament, what is the meaning of the design or what do you like about the design?
It’s a ray of hope, with this ornament, we have learnt to do detailed handwork in a large scale. We are confident now to do big orders.
How do you plan to use the income that you earned from this order?
First of all, we will buy one smart phone each from the income of our first order. This will be the first time we will be buying something valuable from our self-earned money.
Has being an artisan, and earning a living, helped you support your family and/or send your children to school? How does that make you feel?
Yes, it’s a matter of pride for us that we are known for our work. We are able to send our children to the school.
What example do you want to set for your children? What hopes do you have for them?
I want my children to study and pursue whatever they want. I will support them completely.
Is there a message you would like to send to the people around the world who buy your products?
Special thanks to Lal10 team for helping us learn new designs and able to do a big production order. The ornaments are really beautiful and we wish to make more beautiful products. You will definitely like our products.