Refugee artisans debut collection on online fashion store,


Photo credit: UNHCR/N. Lazaro


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21 Jan 2016 (UNHCR) - Refugee women’s empowerment program, Mang Tha, today debuted their handmade clutch purse collection on Malaysia’s first online fashion store, The empowerment programme, based in Malaysia, had undergone months of product and brand consultations under the direct mentorship of the pioneering fashion e-commerce company before reaching this release. This partnership was facilitated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Malaysia.

“Words cannot describe how incredibly proud and happy we are about having our products sold on It is such an honour to have a big company take an interest in our work,” said Myanmar refugee woman, Hannah who is the project coordinator of Mang Tha.

Mang Tha is a programme run by refugee women to support and empower each other. Women are taught to sew, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, weave and embroider. These skills, combined with income- generation opportunities, help empower and build the confidence of these women to be self-reliant.

There are some 156,300 refugees and asylum-seekers currently registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia. They are unable to work legally in the country, and seek livelihood opportunities in the informal sector and through community-run self-help projects. For refugee women, accessing livelihood opportunities are made even more difficult as they are often vulnerable to gender-based harassment and exploitation in the workplace. Mang Tha allows women to learn skills and earn a livelihood in a safe environment.

“We couldn't be more humbled when given the opportunity to empower and support the livelihood of Mang Tha’s Myanmar Chin refugee women, by providing them the platform to showcase their artisanal skills,” said through the company’s official Instagram account.

The women at Mang Tha are taught to create items like bags, clutch purses, and baby slings which are infused with handmade design elements indigenous to their cultural heritage, passed down through generations. These items have been sold mainly through word of mouth among volunteers.

“This is the first time we are doing something of this scale, we have had no experience before. It feels really good to know that all our hard work has come to fruition, and that our traditional designs can be appreciated by everyone,” quips 41 year old Hannah.

“This is a great opportunity for us to get some exposure locally and internationally, a chance for us to finally be able to stand on our own feet in Malaysia.”

Mang Tha handmade clutches are now available on and part proceeds will go towards Mang Tha’s ‘Safe from the Start’ initiative, helping address Sexual and Gender-Based Violence issues among women using community-based livelihood initiatives.


By Alia Surayya, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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