Written by: Aksonethip Somvorachit, Communications Analyst and Palina Thongouthoum, Project Coordinator, UNDP Lao PDR
Saeng – A Future Through Tailoring
October 28, 2022
Ms. Saengmany (Saeng) Keosysanga, a 21 year-old young woman, has a dream to open a tailoring shop. Saeng lives in Hadsaykham Village, Kongsedone District, Saravane Province, which often bears the brunt of floods.
Saeng’s parents are rice farmers, very much like the families around her. It was getting increasingly difficult to forecast the seasons, which made it even more challenging to have a stable income as a result. “Rising water levels were normal for Monsoon seasons. But now, with climate change and the unforgettable 2019 flood - we’re afraid to go through it again,” Saeng said.
Apart from helping her family with farming as her main occupation, she does not have skills and finds it very difficult to earn extra income. Some of Saeng’s friends migrated to the neighboring countries for better work, as they risked losing income and their homes due to flooding. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many returned due to restrictions and just recently travelled back for work.
Many young women are trapped in the traditional cycle of early marriage and taking care of family. Urban migration is common because of the lack of opportunities to earn a decent living in rural areas. Adolescents, especially women, experience difficulties in entering the labor market, and secondary school enrolment remains low for girls in remote areas, with low attendance rates and early dropout.
Saeng’s hometown has few job opportunities for young women to support them to be economically empowered and contribute to the reduction of rural poverty. Tailoring and sewing are an exception.
Saeng had been trained through a short-term tailoring programme by UNDP, to help her gain new skills. But her skills were not yet up to par to earn income, and she did not have the tools to practice at home. Then, in March of 2022, she was selected by the District Labour and Social Welfare Department to take part in a tailoring training again. A good opportunity for her to refresh her skill, as she was one of 17 trainees who joined the training in the Champasak Provincial Skills Development Center over the course of 12 days.
After completing the second training, Saeng wanted to continue applying these skills to build a career. She was able to save up some money to buy a second-hand sewing machine for 500,000 Lao Kip, with a plan to use it for regular practice to increase her confidence.
Saeng began to test her skills by tailoring Lao skirts (Sinh) for her family and cousins. Her friends who had trained with her visited and observed her. Furthermore, they have also exchanged techniques of using the machine with one another.
Saeng is planning to open a shop to welcome clients in her community. With the new income she and her parents will rely less on rice farming and can become more resilient to flood damage.
Saeng has decided to stay in her community. She wants to enhance her tailoring skills and believes that she can make contributions to her home that way. “We can utilize and build capacity. Everyone will try to make the best choice in their best interest to thrive. For me it’s different - I want to give back and be part of my community as we go forward together,” shared Saeng.
Her persistence and practice have inspired the project management team to procure sewing machines for the village as a training tool - expanding the training even after the end of the project to ensure sustainability.
Through the "Urban Risk Management and Resilience - Integrated Resilience Building for Lao PDR’s Sustainable Growth project," UNDP Lao PDR supports the National Disaster Management Office, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to strengthen the country's disaster risk management systems through building capacities such as the training programme in this story, fostering horizontal and vertical administrative coordination, and enhancing data analysis for risk-informed development planning. Supported by UNDP Funding Windows- a multi-donor, flexible funding mechanism that provide a strategic opportunity for partners to contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
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