Weaving their way to financial independence

 

Source: Goreng.my, 19 April 2011

 

March 8 was International Women's Day but Adila Ragawa, 36, probably didn't know. Or care, really. That day, this stroke survivor was busy learning how to weave beautiful baskets from recycled paper -- one of nine women doing the same -- at Salaam Wanita in Taman Tun Dr Ismail. 

Stroke survivor Adila Ragawa learning how to weave baskets out of paper.Stroke survivor Adila Ragawa learning how to weave baskets out of paper.

 

They were making baskets for the NGO's eco-baskets project. This unique project has helped better the lives of a number of women since 2002. You see, the women at Salaam Wanita cannot work outside of their homes because they are either handicapped, sick or caring for young children. But they all wish for the same thing -- financial independence.

A stroke in 2005 paralysed the right half of Adila's body and with that, robbed her of her ability to work as a cleaner. But she didn't give up -- especially when she now has to pay RM200 for her monthly medical expenses. So she took on some jobs that she could still manage: making flower garlands at temples and selling nasi lemak in her neighborhood.

Last year, she found out about the eco-basket project and has been learning about basket-weaving ever since (while still working at the temple on non-classes days). Both jobs secure her about RM300 monthly. Sure it isn't much, but it will do. So how does she find weaving so far?

You'd think it would be hard for her, especially since four of her right fingers are also paralysed! "I find it easy," she smiled. "And I get to exercise my fingers!"

Project coordinator Anne Hussain and intern Maria Skouras with some of the baskets.Project coordinator Anne Hussain and intern Maria Skouras with some of the baskets.

 

"We are a pro-poor project which helps women from the lower-income group," Salaam Wanita co-ordinator Anne Hussain said. Each year, Salaam Wanita stringently interviews disadvantaged women, selects the most deserving and trains them to weave baskets.

There is a basket for almost any purpose!There is a basket for almost any purpose!

 

A company usually sponsors each new batch of students. Once the training ends, the more skilled of the graduates are chosen to take corporate orders.

Their baskets also get sold at bazaars and on the Internet. The women keep at least 50 per cent of the profit, while the remainder keeps Salaam Wanita running. Some graduates have chosen to sell the baskets themselves, and this is totally okay, explained Maria Skouras who is interning at Salaam Wanita. "Even that is a success, because it still gives them the ability to make an income and be assertive," she said.

So how do the women weave the baskets? To ensure the same colour and patterns are repeated, they each take 30 copies of the same magazine issue, roll the same pages, before weaving them.

Their teacher Ms Foong explained it wasn't as simple as it sounded, especially for beginners who take a long time to roll the paper. "The experienced ones take only half an hour, but the beginners take one to two hours," she said.

Once the baskets are done, they are given a matte finish, which is environmentally-friendlier than a glossy finish. So, what are these baskets like? Beautiful and really sturdy! Most of them are colourful, while some are single-coloured. And they come in handy for many occasions. The women make wastepaper baskets and laundry baskets as well.

Lucy Goh, who tags and sells the baskets at bazaars, even showed me wine holders and "hantaran" baskets! "You cannot get two of the same basket" she said. Prices are very reasonable and really a steal for the beautiful work the women do. 

To buy the baskets, click http://www.justmarketing.info or call 03-77265271. The eco-baskets project also welcomes corporate sponsorships!

When you buy any of these baskets, you are helping a woman become financially independent.When you buy any of these baskets, you are helping a woman become financially independent.