Chimmuwa is a part of Borderline Collective in Mae Sot. The group was founded by Sylvia, who has many years of experience from various NGO projects, and Nor Nor, who is the group’s designer. The purpose of Chimmuwa is to create job opportunities for young refugee and migrant women from Myanmar. These women often have difficulties finding employment and thus have a high risk of being exploited in poorly paid jobs or as victims of trafficking.
At Chimmuwa, the women are trained in sewing and other handicraft skills in the beautiful workshop, which is located a short drive from the center of Mae Sot. The women are offered a meaningful job to a decent salary in a safe environment. They also receive training in design and product development, and they learn how to make the entire product from drawing the pattern to stitching everything together. In this way, the women get professional pride as well as the courage to come up with their own ideas and think creatively.
At the Borderline Shop, Chimmuwa sells beautiful bags and scarves in hand-woven cotton. The cotton fabric is purchased from the Karen people in the small tribal communities found along the border between northern Thailand and Myanmar. Some communities grow the cotton, which is then spun and dyed with natural dyes from leaves, flowers and roots. Thereafter, the cotton yarn is typically sold to other villages in exchange for rice and other necessities, and tribes that specialize in weaving then transforms the yarn into beautiful patterns.
Sylvia also buys dyed cotton yarn directly from some of the villages and then transports the yarn to a refugee camp far up in northern Thailand. Here Shan people weavers turn the yarn into gorgeous cotton fabric, which Sylvia later buys back to Chimmuwa and Borderline Collective.
When purchasing handwoven cotton fabric from the Karen people, Chimmuwa helps preserve the traditional weaving culture, which is in danger of disappearing, and in the video below, Sylvia tells more about the enormous amount of work that lies behind the manufacture of the hand-woven cotton fabric: