Traditional Designs Help Myanmar Weavers Access International Textile Markets

Pi Hram Hliang learnt her fine hand weaving skills from an old lady in her village outside the Chin State capital, Hakha, a small city located on a plateau almost 2,000 metres above sea level.

The old lady was one of just two weavers in the village. “They worked from home while looking after their children and grandchildren, and even though it wasn’t much, they earned a regular income,” said Pi Hram Hliang.

Weaving offers stable, flexible work. “This is a job where I can earn money while I stay home and look after my children,” said the 43-year-old. “Most daily wage and farm jobs can be affected by rain. Even though I don’t earn a lot, it’s a regular job.”

Like so many of the weavers working in Chin State and other remote regions in Myanmar, Pi Hram Hliang has limited access to markets or raw materials. Although she is highly skilled in weaving a rich array of traditional designs, her intricate Chin patterns are only available in local markets.

In March 2019, Myanmar Artisans (MA) held a natural dye and design training workshop in Hakha in partnership with Yangon-based Chin textiles retailer and producer, Yoyamay.

“Each weaver had different skills. I was able to observe the other weavers with my own eyes and see how they created different ideas and designs,” said Pi Hram Hliang.

Myanmar Artisans, a social enterprise supported by the UK aid-funded DaNa Facility, supports textile artisans, particularly women and people from remote areas, to access international markets by providing training and skills development. MA complements this work by showcasing traditional textile products and connecting artisans to domestic and international markets.

To date, 184 weavers from Rakhine, Kachin, Chin, and Mandalay have received training, with 93 receiving regular orders from Myanmar Artisans. Although weavers are paid differently depending on the intricacy of design and weaving time, average incomes have increased by up to 20%.

MA’s overarching aim is to transform the Myanmar textile industry. Enabling Myanmar’s hardest to reach and under-served communities to participate in the textile value chain will create decent jobs and enable weavers to increase their incomes.

Empowering people from Myanmar’s remotest regions,particularly women, to participate in and benefit from economic growth – as suppliers, as workers, as consumers – is good for business, good for society, and good for the country.