WEAVE works with internally displaced women living in the refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border, offering employment, training, health and education services.
“My name is Thay Rah and I am a weaver. I weave shawls and scarves.” Thay Rah is 36 years old and not married. When asked if she had children, she laughed hysterically, and said, “How could I if I am not married”. She is Karen, one of the ethnic minorities in Burma and she explained why the Burmese Army, the military junta is the enemy of the Karen people. She tells of escaping to the jungles when the army approached her village in Karen State. She describes when men were captured that they were tortured and killed, and when a woman was caught and how she was raped, beaten and then stabbed to death. The army would occupy their village while they hid in the jungle, and when the military left, they found their village burned to the ground.
It took Thay Rah and her her younger brother and sister many weeks before they finally made their way to the Thai border. In 2007, she arrived to Umphiem Mai refugee camp to seek shelter and protection. Her brother and sister are in school, and Thyra works at home. With the money she earns, she buys fish and clothing and helps with school costs. “My participation with WEAVE’s Income Generation Project has enormously made a difference in our lives. When we arrived in the refugee camp, we didn’t have anything. We rely only on the food given to us by the refugee committee. Although we are safe, life was still hard. When I became a weaver and received my first month fee from the products I made, I was very happy. I felt a sense of achievement. Now, I not only buy additional food for my brother and sister, I can also now contribute towards their school needs.”
Finally, Thay Rah says, “ I weave shawls and scarves and even if it usually take me around 3 days to make just one, I am happy. It not only gives me satisfaction when I see my finished products, it also makes me feel happy to weave beautiful scarves for other people. I hope it makes them warm and safe.”
Text and photo of Thay Rah by Mitos Urgel, Executive Director WEAVE