“Rice farmers by day, artisan weavers by night”
We focus on empowering women and men to obtain better and equal education and job opportunities.
The Women of Rattanawapi Village
The women of Rattanawapi village in the Isaan region of northeast Thailand are rice
farmers by day and artisan weavers by night, creating beautiful textiles that are
both creative and awe-inspiring in their ingenuity. In an epic feat of repurposing, the
women are weaving colorful shawls, tablecloths, skirts, tops, etc. using scraps of
fabric purchased from a local factory that they unravel and re-spin to make their
yarn. Their spinning wheels are made from old bicycle tires, bungee cords and
straws. They use a rice steamer to prepare the fabric and they do their sewing on an
ancient pedal Singer sewing machine, surrounded by chickens and children and
fields of rice.
“The Women of 4G”, the 7 women in the Rattanawapi weaving collective who chose this modern-sounding name, are part of a government project focused on trying to create more income opportunities in economically disadvantaged villages. There are 835 villagers involved in the project, aged 15-65, learning life skills, weaving, fishing and farming. The Women of 4G were singled out because of the high quality of their products. Their sales have increased in the past year since their scarves have become popular gifts for government workers to give each other during festival time and for retirements, a common tradition in Thailand. But still they are only making pocket money, maybe enough to help with school fees for their children. The goal is to get the whole village involved in the business, creating jobs and keeping villagers from leaving their homes to go abroad in order to make enough to support their families. Many rural families end up going to Taiwan, South Korea and Israel to work in factories because they just can’t make a living in Thailand. This exodus depletes villages of workers, creates a stagnant economy and impacts the culture of northern Thailand. By helping villagers learn the necessary skills to start successful businesses, the project invigorates the economy and helps preserve the art and traditions of the region.
Openmind Projects is working with the women of Rattanawapi to get their products online, creating this website for them so they can maximize profits going to the village. These women represent the last of their generation with the weaving knowledge, so OMP is also trying to encourage more younger people to get involved, in learning both the craft and about business in order to help the weavers create and sell marketable products. Updating their designs, learning to use eCommerce platforms and increasing production have been the recent focus of their efforts.
With the money raised through donations, OMP will provide web support and training and consultation so products can be developed that will appeal to a wider worldwide client base. They will also help to provide new equipment so the women can produce their goods quicker and spend less time troubleshooting malfunctioning tools.
New sewing machine (10,000 Thai Baht/$330 US/€300)