Testimony Tailors Rohingya Sewing Cooperative
Testimony Tailors is a Rohingya sewing cooperative formed by survivors of rape and massacres who had been donated sewing machines and then stated to meet and sew together. #Hands4Rohingya is supporting these women as they form and grow their cooperative through the launch of an online shop. It is a unique store with a difference, the first in its kind: Every item of clothing bought is not only made by the Rohingya women but is also given as a gift to another Rohingya refugee. The customer then receives a photo of the item after it has been delivered.
Not only can you buy clothes and accessories in the store but you can also buy a sewing machine startup package to help another woman get started and join the coop. Buying one of these packages as a gift enables another Rohingya survivor to become a member of this supportive community and gain greater control over her life. The online store launched on 13th November 2018, with 27 women participating. Within just a few days, they made sales of £700 in clothing and received donations for 13 new sewing machines, which enabled the coop to grow to 40 active members. There are another 10 women on standby waiting for machines.
There are lots more women that would like to join the cooperative but in order to strengthen the community and find the best ways of working together it has been decided to limit numbers to 50 during this initial start-up period.
Here you can see some of the clothes that have been sold through the shop so far:
All the profits from the shop sales go to the women themselves: most go to the tailor who made the item and the rest to the cooperative, which the women then decide where best to spend together. Recently they bought irons from their profits, that they now share between them.
GREAT NEWS: Thanks to your support #TestimonyTailors just bought some irons! Here’s a view from the production floor.
— Jamila Hanan (@JamilaHanan) November 16, 2018
In addition to the economic benefit, the coop community is helping the women to rebuild their own lives following their traumatic experiences. None of these women have received any professional counselling to help them recover, but through working and creating together it is evident that they are helping to heal themselves.
“I try to bring my art into my sewing. It looks nice. People also like it. They tell me it looks beautiful. That is why I do art. And my mind is able to focus more too.” Tasmina, Rohingya Tailor, age 17
The cooperative provides a sense of belonging to something that is theirs within the camps. Each member now holds a Testimony Tailors membership ID card. It is another card to add to their collection of IDs that they take care not to lose, but not because this one provides access to rations, but because it is something to be proud of. It is an ID card of belonging, evidence that together they can create something valuable, a card of hope.
Customers are inspired by the initiative and the resilience of this group of women. The shop provides a means by which people around the world can build a special link with these survivors and their community.
“People need a way to feel like they are doing something to help in such a helpless situation. This will help more than just the Rohingya. It is helping all of us who feel like they can’t do anything else.” Michelle Eades, customer
For more about the women, what they have endured and how they formed their cooperative visit the About page on the Testimony Tailors website.
Here are some of their latest designs which they have made especially for the holiday season.
Please do take the time to visit their shop, consider placing an order and share.