Moe Moe is an early riser. As the head of a woman-only household, the responsibility of supporting her mother and grandmother rests firmly on her shoulders. She wakes up every day at 6am to collect water from the well in the forest to bring back to her family. Then, she sews.
“I only focus on sewing, because I can get my income from it.” says Moe Moe.
Moe Moe is a member of the MBoutik collective, a women’s social enterprise supported by ActionAid Myanmar. Located in Myanmar’s Dry Zone region, women like Moe Moe are being hit hard by climate change - making it difficult for community members to access nutritious food and a steady income.
At MBoutik, Moe Moe has banded together with other women in her community to rise above these challenges and earn a steady income through their beautiful hand-made clothes.
Before she joined the other women at MBoutik, Moe Moe worked as a seasonal worker in local farms in the Dry Zone, but could not earn enough to support her family.
“In this area, sometimes the farms are not a success. Their pay was also not good. Farmers cannot provide regular work for me. That’s why I joined this training.”
Moe Moe’s grandmother is sick, and when she was working on the farms she did not earn enough for her medical care. Since joining the MBoutik program she has been able to afford critical health care for her grandmother and has even bought her own motorbike for getting around - an important time saver as well as a symbol of independence.
This independence is powerful, for alongside the daily challenges of living in poverty, women in Moe Moe’s community face specific challenges just by virtue of their gender.
Moe Moe explained: “The community doesn’t want to give a place for women. Especially for women-only households, they never get respected.”
At MBoutik, Moe Moe is doing more than crafting beautiful clothes and generating a secure income to support her family. Unlike the dangerous garment factories in other parts of the world which deny women their rights, the MBoutik program has supported her in deepening her understanding of her rights.
Moe Moe was briefly married but is now divorced. “Before I learnt my rights, I was afraid in situations with my husband. But now I know my rights, I can solve these problems myself. I know how to protect myself.”
Her life has not been the same since she became involved in the project. It not only transformed her lifestyle, but also her self-confidence.
“Before, my thinking was in a family, if there is no man you are not secure. But now, I have changed my feelings. I am more independent and confident. I can stand alone. ”
Now that MBoutik has partnered with Australian ethical fashion business The Fabric Social, it’s gratifying for producers like Moe Moe to see their clothes being loved and worn with pride by women around the world.
“I feel really happy when people wear what I am sewing. When I make these clothes here and they go all the way to Australia, I really appreciate it.”
The women in Moe Moe’s producers group have become very close, and continue to be a strong support system for each other. Moe Moe hopes to continue working with them in future and stay at MBoutik for a long time to come. Visit The Fabric Social to purchase some ethical threads today!
The innovative business partnership, coordinated by ActionAid Australia through funding from DFAT’s new Business Partnerships Platform, is supporting women in Myanmar to realise their economic independence and full human rights.