Women make up over 85% of MADE51 artisans. Most of them are mothers. For them, artisan work offers them a dignified livelihood with the flexibility they need to care for their children. In a refugee setting, this is one of the most powerful opportunities a mother can have to build brighter futures for her children. Meet some of the incredible mothers who make MADE51 products.
Maleka, mother of one in India
[Maleka and her daughter. Photo Credit: SilaiWali]
Maleka and her daughter, Shabnam, are artisans with SilaiWali, a MADE51 partner in New Delhi, India. Both are refugees from Afghanistan, as are their fellow artisans at SilaiWali. Maleka, her husband and their children fled Afghanistan five years ago in search of a safe haven in India. Though safer, life was not easy.
When SilaiWali was started in 2019, Maleka was one of their first artisans. Her skilful stitching and embroidery meant she had an opportunity for her to support her family. Soon her daughter, Shabnam, joined Silaiwali too. Shabnam started by checking product quality and packing orders, and today is also responsible for raw material sourcing.
The mother-daughter duo is famous for their infectious high-pitched laughter, which enlivens the workshop and lifts the spirits of those around them.
Gloriose, mother of three in Rwanda
[Gloriose and one of her children at the Mahama Refugee Camp in Rwanda. Photo credit: B.Barb]
Gloriose is originally from Burundi. Before she was forced to flee, she was a farmer and owned a small shop where she sold food and drinks.
Now, she lives in the Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda where she is raising three children. Her hopes for them mirror the wishes of parents around the world.
“My dreams for my family’s future are to see all my children well educated, and I wish better living conditions for my family.”
Gloriose has found a way to chase these dreams, despite her circumstances. Upon arrival at the refugee camp, she began training with Indego Africa, a MADE51 partner that specializes in woven baskets and bags. After her training, she joined one of their artisan cooperatives, producing contemporary products using traditional Burundian weaving techniques.
“Partnering with Indego Africa has been a great success for me, as I am no longer only relying on UNHCR’s support. I am able to provide for my family and also to afford clothes and shoes for my children, which they love. These are the types of opportunities we have now, as cooperative members, that other people in the community don’t have. Now, nothing is a challenge.”
Maw Soe Meh, mother of five in Thailand
[Maw Soe Meh celebrating her sons graduation. Photo credit: WEAVE]
In 1996, Maw Soe Meh and her husband risked their lives crossing mined fields on the Thai-Myanmar border in order to seek refuge in Thailand. Though they had just been married and wanted to have a big family, continued attacks on their village made it clear they wouldn’t be able to do this in Myanmar.
Maw Soe Meh and her husband found safety in a refugee camp in Thailand and were able to have the big family they hoped for. Maw Soe Meh has given birth to 5 children since she arrived and, according to her, “to be a mother raising all my children in the refugee camp was a big challenge and extremely difficult!”.
Twenty five years later, she is still in the camp, watching her children grow and thrive.
“Looking back at the 25 years, I realized that despite the poverty and marginalization, I remain standing and committed to give my children a better life because of their love and care. They are growing up respectful and responsible and I know that they will take good care of us when our strength will no longer allow us to work.”
Maw Soe Meh says she attributes her ability to be a good mother to her ability to work with her hands, earning an income by creating products for WEAVE, a MADE51 social enterprise partner.
[Maw Soe Meh weaving. Photo credit: Arthit Wngnithisathapor]
“Weaving has become my outlet when I am faced with too many difficulties, when I feel like giving up… Working with WEAVE is not only giving me safe and fair income, they also demonstrate what it means to be part of a family, to feel protected and secured in times of need. I did not get the chance to go to school but WEAVE believed in me, in my skills and provided me great opportunities… My family and community see me not just a mere refugee woman but a strong pillar of my family, a woman leader and productive member of our community”
Maw Soe Meh’s second son just graduated from college in the refugee camp and is determined to help his mother with work and support his younger brothers with their education.
Hasina, mother of two in Myanmar
[Hasina with her signature smile. Photo credit: UNHCR/All is Amazing]
Hasina is Rohingya, a stateless minority in Myanmar. Since the 1990s over a million Rohingya have fled targeted violence and serious human rights violations. Most Rohingya refugees walked for days through the jungle or braved dangerous voyages by sea to find safety.
Hasina found safety in Malaysia in 2015. Her favorite quote is "No matter how hard life hits you, do it with a smile on your face."
She is living by that mantra. She is a mother of two, the eldest of whom is ill, and her husband can’t find a stable job. They face challenges in paying for rent, food and healthcare. Yet, through her artisan work, she is able to earn much-needed income, often with a radiant smile on her face.
She and other Rohingya refugee women are crafting products for Earth Heir, a MADE51 social enterprise partner in Kuala Lumpur. Hasina explains that the opportunity to work has given her a way to her ease her burdens financially and, by coming together with the other women, to build meaningful friendships that support her during difficult times.
Zainab, mother of three in Myanmar
[Zainab with her 3 children. Photo credit: Lal10]
Zainab was 10 years old when her family was forced to flee Myanmar. She wanted to continue school but had to stop to go to work at her fathers clothing shop.
Motherhood fills Zainab with hopes and dream. Like sending her son to study and achieve great things and for her daughter to be independent like herself. She believes mothers play the most crucial role in the development of their children and wishes for every mother to be empowered to raise their children in the right way.
"Even when it was difficult to earn enough for two meals a day, I always dreamt of doing something big in my life."
Zainab is determined to improve not only her own life, but also the lives of those around her. She works as a master artisan sewing for Lal10, a local social enterprise partner of MADE51. Now that Zainab's work is steady, she is focused on encouraging others to adopt best practices to improve their livelihoods.
Solange, mother of one in Kenya
[Solange, RefuSHE artisan in Kenya. Photo credit: Bobby Neptune / RefusSHE ]
Solange is originally from Burundi. In 2015, just a few days before the national election, there was an attack in her hometown. The next night her house was invaded and her parents and two brothers were killed. Thankfully, Solange was enrolled in boarding school at that time and was safe from the attack. Hearing the news, her godfather arranged travel for Solange to Kenya. When she arrived, she found herself in precarious living situations until she found UNHCR who referred to a safe house run by RefuSHE.
RefuSHE is a MADE51 social enterprise partner based in Nairobi and, in addition to offering refugee women and girls a place to live, the organization supports training and work opportunities, including in the artisan sector. Solange says that RefuSHE saved her life and, now that she is in a healthy place physically and mentally, she just wants to be a good mother to her son.
After six years as a refugee, Solange is finally in the process of resettlement. As her case moves forward, she is able to support herself and her young son, Caleb, working as a skilled tailor.
Solange is passionate about studying English -- she is now fully fluent. Her young son, just two years old, enjoys music and singing. Solange dreams of one day becoming a professional nurse.