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Weaver preserves national heritage, improves women’s livelihoods thanks to time-honoured craft

Over many years she has strictly preserved Lao traditional patterns described as ‘Lao pattern weaving’, an exemplar of the nation’s cultural heritage.
This labour and a love of her work has helped change her family’s life and living standards for the better.
The chief pair of hands and agile mind behind Lao Pattern Weaving, owner Ms Bouasavanh Sitthivanh, explains that she barely believed that one day she would have the chance to become a voluntary teacher, demonstrating her weaving skills for the benefit of a new generation of weavers.  

Ms Bouasavanh Sitthivanh.       --Photo Somchanh Bouapha

Based in Sisangvone village of Xaysettha district in the capital, Ms Bouasavanh was born the eldest daughter of a poor family.
She left primary school after the second grade to help her mother with weaving to earn additional income for the household.
Without any formal vocational skills training apart from her skills gained on the job, she has observed that this craft has remained the primary source of sustainable income for her and her family over many years.
However, before the better quality of life she enjoys today, there were some difficulties.
Coming from a low-income family, she did not have enough money on hand to buy raw materials to purchase inputs such as cotton, silk, wood and loom.
To solve the problem, she decided to apply for work as a weaver at ‘Friend help Friend’ organisation in 2002.
After working there for more three years, she could save some money.
Then she decided to leave the position at the organisation to set up her own business and in doing so follow her own dream.
She bought cotton, silk, wood and loom.
A scarf was the first product made on her loom.
The scarf was made of 100 percent maimon silk.
Her products became popular among customers, especially foreign customers whose multiple orders kept her production team increasingly busy.
Today, Lao Pattern Weaving has expanded most agreeably.
Now 40 looms are in use to respond to market demand for products such as scarves, bags, sashes, shoulder wraps and sinh made from maimon and mailap silks.
She also prepares cloth for tailoring silk shirts and more.
Her team includes weavers who receive orders for products and produce busily at home in their available time.
This creates job opportunities for these women to weave to earn money with the flexibility that comes with being based at home, a boon for mothers of young children.
A matter of pride for Ms Bouavanh is that the government fully supports her business with promotion assistance in Laos and abroad.
Products from Lao Pattern Weaving have been shown in Thailand, Japan, France, Sweden and Switzerland.
She also has regular customers from the United States who make orders all year round.
In addition, the community development project of Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Plant has selected Ms Bouavanh as a voluntary teacher to demonstrate her weaving skills at Sobhia, Somkham and Namnien villages, Nakai district, Khammuan province.
She teaches how to dye silk, how to dry silk at a suitable temperature, how to wind the thread onto bobbins, how to weave and how to design the patterns.
Today, her products have received accreditation under the ‘One District One Product’ (ODOP) scheme, recognition through which is considered a great honour by Ms Bouavanh and family.
She said that she will continue to transfer her weaving skills to other weavers to make sure that they can also use this craft to improve their living standards in the years to come.
“Weavers must be diligent and put love into their work,” she said.
“I hope that if these young weavers are also hard-working and put love into their work, they can succeed one day in the future,” she added.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update June 3 , 2017 )

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