Journey of discovery

Posted by Working Conditions Team on Oct 05, 2016

Seven women from Myanmar have returned home full of new ideas and inspiration, following a knowledge-sharing trip to Dhaka, funded by C&A Foundation.

The women visited Awaj Foundation's 'women's cafes', which offer social, educational and legal services to empower and improve the lives of garment factory workers.

Su Tayar Lin, Project Manager at SMART Myanmar, says the eye-opening experience will help SMART Myanmar and their partner Thone Pann Hla to improve their Sunday Café model in Yangon.

“For most of the group it was their first time in another country, so there was a lot of excitement. Two of the women were factory workers and the rest of us were staff from SMART Myanmar and Thone Pann Hla. We visited three women's cafes and different support group such as their legal advisory service, health support services and training centres. We also went to a garment factory in Dhaka.

“We were all impressed by Awaj. It is a large, well-established organisation, with a lot of trained and experienced staff offering a wide range of programmes. We aim to replicate some of their approaches in Myanmar.”

Around 100,000 people use 14 women's cafes in Bangladesh, while in Yangon, Thone Pann Hla runs one Sunday Café and is establishing a second one, which will be funded by SMART Myanmar. C&A Foundation spotted a unique opportunity to introduce Awaj Foundation and Thone Pann Hla and worked with SMART Myanmar to organise the exchange.

The timing was important as Myanmar's garment industry is growing at lightning speed, with a new factory opening every week and 4,000 new workers joining each month. In both countries, suitable accommodation is often hard to come by, and educational opportunities and community centres of any sort are rare.

“The trip was really beneficial and so eye-opening for the workers. They asked lots of questions despite the language barrier and being a bit shy. They are now sharing what they have seen with the other workers in their network.”

Project Manager at SMART Myanmar Su Tayar Lin

Su says: “The trip was really beneficial and so eye-opening for the workers. They asked lots of questions despite the language barrier and being a bit shy. They are now sharing what they have seen with the other workers in their network.

“It was great to see the range of programmes offered by Awaj. We are developing a legal advisory service at Sunday Café 2 and we are also looking for ways to make the Sunday Cafes more financially sustainable. Awaj Foundation generates extra income by offering things like singing and dance classes from its centres and we are hoping to achieve a similar level of financial independence through their hostel accommodation.”