Weaving a way to join global fight

  • Metro News
  • Monday, 01 Jun 2020

Weavers from the Maybank Women Eco-Weavers programme in Cambodia packing the finished handwoven masks to be shipped out for distribution.

Some 250 women weavers in Cambodia under the Maybank Women Eco-Weavers programme in collaboration with Colorsilk, a social business for Cambodian weavers, are aiming to produce over 110,000 handwoven face masks made of pure cotton and silk to help limit the spread of Covid-19 in the region.

The initiative, which began early this year, is also in support of easing the pressure on the demand for surgical masks which are primarily reserved for medical professionals and healthcare workers, as well as to counter the increase in price of face masks within the region.

To date, over 15,000 handwoven masks have been produced by the weavers, whereby 12,000 have been sold and 2,000 were donated to communities in Cambodia.

In Cambodia, a single-use surgical mask could easily cost as high as US$1 (RM4.35) per piece in a country where a large percentage of people live below the poverty line and earn between US$1.25 (RM5.44) and US$2 (RM8.70) per day.

The three-ply handwoven cotton masks can be cleaned, reused and cost a minimum of US$0.65 (RM2.83) and the silk woven masks are priced at US$1.50 (RM6.52) per piece.

The masks comes in both plain and a striped pattern known as kroma, which is unique to the Cambodian silk-weaving heritage.

Maybank Foundation chief executive officer Shahril Azuar Jimin was proud of the programme’s effectiveness and the dedication displayed by the weavers.

“Amid the difficult times we are all going through, it is heartening to see our weavers going the extra mile, doing their part to contain the spread of the virus by producing these handcrafted face masks,” he said.

“This momentous effort by them goes to show that anyone be it old, young, rich or poor can do their part to help each other in times of crisis.

“It is also inspiring to see the impact of our investments in collective solutions for the communities we serve,” added Shahril.

Majority of the weavers are graduates and trainees of the Maybank Women Eco-Weavers programme, a Maybank Foundation flagship programme that promotes traditional textile in a sustainable manner while creating economic independence and financial inclusion for women weavers across South-East Asia.

The face mask initiative also provides supplementary economic opportunities for the weavers and Cambodia’s weaving communities in an effort to ensure fair pricing and protect the welfare of the people.

From this initiative alone, the weavers are earning between US$200 (RM870) and US$350 (RM1,522) per month.

The weavers are also currently receiving orders from countries such as Japan, Indonesia, the United States and Taiwan.

Touch Eng, a graduate trainee of the programme, said, “I used to earn less than US$30 (RM130.50) as a farmer while others made more working at factories.

“Since I participated in the face mask project, I am thankful that I am able to earn between US$250 (RM1,087) and US$280 (RM1,218) and support my country in combating the spread of the virus.”

El Ny, an experienced weaver of the same programme, said, “I am quite lucky to be able to secure my family’s income during this challenging period.

“Many of the villagers who work in factories are struggling because of the impact of Covid-19.

“I am thankful that I can earn up to US$320 (RM1,392) per month from this face mask project.

“My husband used to question my decision about working as a weaver but now he has given his full support.”

The programme is currently running in Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia and Laos.

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