Empowering women one stitch at a time

Tamarai’s seamstresses who successfully completed the programme.

“When women support each other, incredible things happen.”

This aptly describes the story behind Pertubuhan Pembangunan Wanita Tamarai Pulau Pinang (Tamarai).

With a RM50,000 grant from Star Foundation under the Star Social Impact Grant (SSIG), Tamarai has empowered 25 vulnerable women through training in tailoring as well as equipping them with skills and marketing knowledge to earn a livelihood.

Beneficiaries who participated in the “Button and Hook — Learn In: Empowering Women through Tailoring Skills” project were mainly from the B40 and marginalised communities, including school dropouts and former prisoners.

Each of them also received a sewing machine upon project completion, to help kickstart their entrepreneurship journey.Threads of hopeHomemaker and project beneficiary Kasturi Murugaih, 40, was actively searching for upskilling opportunities to generate extra income when she stumbled upon an advertisement online about the project.

Star SSIG infor boxStar SSIG infor boxWithout hesitation, she enrolled in the programme despite having no prior experience in tailoring.

“When I first started the tailoring classes, I was a complete newbie and it was quite challenging.

“We had exams and assignments every week, but I didn’t give up and asked the trainers lots of questions.

“It wasn’t long before I saw a huge improvement in my work.

“Before this, I was a housewife with no income. But taking part in the project has helped build my self-confidence and I am now able to support my family,” said Kasturi, adding that she also won the Tamarai blouse design competition that was held among the trainees.

Her journey in tailoring has achieved another milestone as she and Tamarai are working to release a new women’s blouse which will be named after her.

Another beneficiary, Nithiya Muniady, has made the most out of the training by starting her own home business using the portable sewing machine funded by Star Foundation.

“Before this I was a very shy person. I learned various tailoring methods through this course and am now able to sew well and am better at socialising.

“Besides my full-time administrative job, I also sell handmade pouches and bags.

“With extra income from tailoring, my monthly earnings have increased by about 30% and that has helped me achieve greater financial stability,” said the 37-year-old.

Looking ahead, Nithiya is planning to buy a sewing machine with higher specifications to expand her home-based business.

“I envision creating my own designs for children’s clothing in the future,” she said.

Fellow trainee, logistic assistant Tanar Rega, 43, started off with no knowledge in sewing.

“The trainers were very patient in guiding us step-by-step from pattern drafting and taking measurements to sewing machine maintenance,” she said.

Tanar currently does part-time tailoring and frequently encourages others to pick up a new skill.

“I tell my friends and family about my personal experience, how my newly-learned skills have allowed me to become more self-reliant where I can fix my own clothes and earn extra income,” she added.

The trainees expressed gratitude to Star Foundation and Tamarai for giving them the opportunity to learn tailoring and improve their lives.

Upskilling communitiesEstablished in 2013, Tamarai provides vocational training to underserved communities, such as single parents and those from high-risk environments.

With courses like sewing, floral arrangement, hairdressing, henna art and entrepreneurship, they have improved the lives of over 1,300 individuals through increased incomes and better living standards.

In response to the livelihood challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Tamarai broadened its efforts to empower women by expanding its sewing courses.

Tamarai chairman KS Pakyalakshmi Subramanian selected tailoring as it was always in demand, especially among women.

“Despite the pandemic, we initiated the project and adapted to the fluid situation by having three classes.

“The smaller classes helped enrich students’ experience and allowed for better hands-on learning with guidance from the teachers.

“While it required more time and resources than we initially anticipated, the results were positive,” said Pakyalakshmi.

She said seeing her students flourish in their pursuits serves as a driving force to continue her work.

Equipped with new skills in tailoring and entrepreneurship, the seamstresses have been able to generate extra income of about RM300 on average per month through their newfound businesses.

“I sincerely thank Star Foundation for trusting Tamarai to serve the community.

“The foundation also agreed to provide funding for portable sewing machines, which proved to be an invaluable asset for our trainees.

“With this support, the women are able to gain financial freedom through their businesses.”

Tamarai welcomes eligible individuals to enrol in their high-impact programmes.

For more details, visit facebook.com/Pertubuhan Pembangunan WanitaTamaraiPulauPinang

SSIG is an initiative by Star Foundation aimed at supporting impact-driven and sustainable projects by non-governmental organisations and social enterprises to better the lives of local communities and the environment.

Applications for the third cycle of the annual SSIG is now open.

Changemakers with project ideas that are aligned with the grant’s five focus areas are encouraged to submit their proposals and relevant supporting documents at bit.ly/starsig by April 2.

Star Foundation is the charitable arm of Star Media Group, which aims to deliver meaningful initiatives with lasting outcomes to diverse groups of beneficiaries.

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