Salinee, whose nickname is “Nee,” has been around fabric, thread and sewing machines almost all her life. From Thailand, as a child she worked at her mother’s side, ironing and attaching buttons in a Bangkok clothing factory. “In those days we worked in the factory eight or nine hours a day and made only 70 baht (two dollars),” she recalls.
After leaving school at 16, Nee took a sewing course, married a man from northern Thailand, and moved there to work in another factory sewing clothes for export. Life was a constant struggle, especially after her husband began drinking.
Today, Nee sews at home, along with a group of four women who, like she, left the factory when they began having children. For the past 13 years Nee has been the head of the sewing group. “The factory boss lets us take work home,” she explains. “Some of the others need help with difficult jobs, so I teach them. I am also in charge of quality control. But the work depends so much upon the market, and oftentimes we can’t make ends meet.”
This is where Global Groove stepped in. Nee and her group now make flags for our kids decor, and our designer cushion covers and other home décor products. “This is what I do best,” Nee says. “I make patterns, I sew, and I am good at it.”
“Everything I know about sewing I learned from my mother,” says Pranom. She grew up on Doi Tung, a mountain in northern Thailand, where her family made a living farming tea. As a Lahu girl, Pranom was expected to learn embroidery and stitch work, skills that are highly valued in this ethnic minority group.
Today Pranom and her family of five live in the town of Chiang Mai, where they moved 20 years ago in order to send their children to better schools. An industrious worker, Pranom has been the main wage-owner in the family. She sews flags, bags, and cushion covers in her home, where other Lahu women from the neighborhood gather to help when big orders come in.
“Sometimes I invite young women from my village too,” says Pranom. “I like to teach them, and the income helps their families.”
Although educated only through Grade 6, Pranom is keen to learn and enjoys new challenges. Making leather bags was one such challenge that Global Groove has provided, and the results are impressive.
She is extremely grateful for the work Global Groove has provided over the years, saying, “The products are interesting, the people are kind, and the wage is fair.” Pranom would love to take some advanced sewing courses in the future, and, she admitted with a smile, she really wants to learn how to bake!