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Empowerment through embroidery and livestock rearing

Khang lives in a small mountainous village in the rugged terrain of Nonghet district, Laos. While her community is reliant on agricultural production, several of the Hmong artisans, mostly women, also practise a traditional textile art as a supplementary form of income for their families.

Khang is a mother to two young sons, and is also physically challenged every day by her left leg, which is much shorter than her right. Nonetheless, she has always been determined to make an income even though conditions may be difficult.

In order to assist women like Khang, ChildFund Laos, with the support of the Australian Government, established a small embroidery group in her community in April 2015.

While embroidery has been passed down through generations in the small community, many of the families were unable to afford the materials required to practise their embroidery and sell their textiles.

Khang is the leader of her village`s embroidery group, and support from ChildFund now provides nine families with the materials and fabric they require. This has encouraged community members to keep their textile traditions alive and created extra income for their families. With this new ChildFund program, Hmong women are now able to produce beautifully patterned clothing and fine suits.

“I can make two suits per month and sell them for US$50 each,” says Khang.

In addition to the embroidery group, Khang also leads the ChildFund-supported livestock raising group. Khang’s village is one of 15 in the area that has received goats, pigs and ducks. Khang teaches the group how to raise and care for their animals in order to sell them at the local market.

These two leadership positions and alternative livelihoods programs have given Khang a new sense of responsibility, and enabled her to earn extra income.

“With the money I get from selling, I can buy clothes, books and pens for my sons,” she says.

Khang is also able to purchase cooking ingredients and pay household bills without reliance on her husband.

“Unlike before, I now contribute to the financial position of my family and make decisions,” explains Khang. “Since joining the groups I haven`t had as much time to do housework such as cooking and fetching water, so my husband has been doing it to support me instead.”

Empowering women and girls is a key area of ChildFund`s work. On International Women’s Day (8 March), we celebrate women like Khang who are taking the lead in their community to provide better opportunities for themselves and their family.

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