For Ei Shwe Zin living in Hpa-an, Kayin State, Myanmar, learning how to sew garments for sale is not just a hobbie, but a way of life.
As the eldest daughter of a family with 13 members and a deceased father, it was taken upon 23 year old Ei Shwe Zin to provide for her family. Ei Shwe Zin had to forsake her potential future by quitting school to work in a clothing store in the local market in order to generate income for her family’s livelihood. Ei Shwe Zin’s monthly salary equated to 35,000 kyat’s a month – that’s approximately $40 AUD each month. Understandably this was hardly enough income to provide for her large families needs which lead to the family having to borrow money at a high interest rate in order to survive. With a sick mother, and the stress of being responsible for her family’s future and wellbeing, Ei Shwe Zin was often sick herself adding to an already impossible situation.
As in many countries, the husband is the sole provider for the family, so when Ei Shwe Zin married, she had to quit her job leaving her family to fend for themselves and seek out further loans from local money lenders. Although Ei Shwe Zin had received 3 months of textiles training through a government initiative, Ei Shwe Zin felt that her skills were still limited. Upon hearing of a project named ‘Vocational Training to Support Livelihoods’ (VTSL) offered in the area and run by ADRA Myanmar targeted to provide training in relevant areas such as textiles training, computer skills training or mechanic repairs training for disadvantaged youth who are unable to further their education and are struggling to support their families, Ei Shwe Zin saw an opportunity to aid her family once more. After several long discussions with her family and her husband, although hesitant at first, Ei Shwe Zin was allowed to attend textiles training at no cost through the VTSL project.
Fast track into the present and you will find Ei Shwe Zin has completed her training and has begun taking orders from neighbours primarily selling women’s blouses for around 1,500 kyat’s each (roughly $2 AUD). With aspirations to open her own shop aptly named ‘Shwe Zin Tailoring’, Ei Shwe Zin has begun to look brightly on her future and that of her families. In addition to receiving orders from her neighbours, the tailoring shop where Ei Shwe Zin completed her internship as a part of her training places regular orders in order to supply the store creating a sustainable income source for Ei Shwe Zin. With an average income that was once 35,000 kyat a month, Ei Shwe Zin’s average monthly income has now increased to 80,000 kyat’s a month (roughly $93 AUD) – a sum that better provides for her family’s needs.
Not only did ADRA Myanmar’s VTSL project provide Ei Shwe Zin with the relevant skills and training required to generate income for her family, but it also changed Ei Shwe Zin’s attitude, with her husband noting a positive change in her health and general outlook. The VTSL project isn’t simply aimed at alleviating poverty and enabling youth to work, it’s designed to create sustainable livelihoods that create positive change in every aspect of a person’s life to provide hope for the future and that of future generations. Upon reflection, Ei Shwe Zin stated that “I am really grateful to ADRA for offering training without any charges or fees. I am happy that I could learn these skills in a short time and thank the teachers for teaching me well. I will now be able to contribute to our family’s livelihood and increase our income meaning I can take care of my mother and siblings better now”.