Mu Tae creating the  'Mu Tae Embroidered Wristlet'  on a back-strap loom.

Mu Tae creating the 'Mu Tae Embroidered Wristlet' on a back-strap loom.

Today, on World Refugee Day 2016, Ways of Change is launching our first line showcasing women’s weaving skills. We are so proud of all of the energy that went in to this line, from the locally sourced materials, to the beautiful collaborations and the love and dedication.

‘Terra Ma’ means ‘feminine wisdom’ in the Kayan language.

The pieces making up the ‘Terra Ma’ Collection, are an archetype of palpable co-creation, conceived and birthed in the open-air living room of Aye Mee with a room full of women, thread, ideas, vulnerability and laughing children. The patterns are traditional Kayan and Karenni, enlivened with colors from the runway and swayed by modern design.

This line has been a long time in the making; WoC sourced local, organic and hand-dyed cotton from a nearby village, women engaged in two levels of sewing training and three levels of large loom weaving training in order to create the inside lining of the bags and ideas were shared and re-worked.

Pree cooks the cotton with rice in preparation for weaving.

Pree cooks the cotton with rice in preparation for weaving.

More profound than these practical training sessions were the informal expressions that took place on Aye Mee’s wooden floor. This was the space where ideas were shared, prices were negotiated and modifications were made. Our words and actions unfolded and carefully spun around us a web of honor and love, cultivating the space where honesty and creativity could be nourished. Our web was spun under the pretense of a new co-created reality, where ideas were valuable and to be shared. The delicate threads surrounding us glued together by the transmission and reception of words which formulated the basis for our realism;

“I value you and your skills, ideas and experiences. WoC is not a charity, we are a business and we are here because we believe in you. Women around the world struggle to place value on their skills. Woman-to-woman, I do not have your unique skills or experiences. I do not know the time and energy that went in to creating it, nor the long-term learning of these skills. I respect, honor and love you and the value that you place on yourself.”

This intention was set daily. In the beginning, there were a few giggles after the, “Khi ba ta na (I love you),” however it was eventually received and returned with beauty and intention. I could truly see that a shift had occurred and we had created a space where self-worth and confidence were the norm when women began coming forward with their ideas, innovations and wisdom, a reward that has not always flowed with fortitude over the past year and a half…but worth the wait. 

The women joining me on Aye Mee’s floor are Kayan and Karenni women living in a refugee village on the Thailand Burma border. Their situation is unique and complex, having arrived in Thailand as refugees and living in refugee camps, before being identified as tourist attractions due to the brass coils some women wear on their necks. They were placed in refugee villages that are open to tourism. The core income generating activity of these villages has been a model of tourism which places value on the physical appearances of the women.

Mu Pang, Aye Mee, Mu Be, Mu Tae and Cara.

Mu Pang, Aye Mee, Mu Be, Mu Tae and Cara.

WoC focuses on women’s skills, experiences and lives as valuable. We work with women to empower themselves by identifying skills they wish to showcase or build and creating a space of honor and love where we share ideas.

With positive change, connection and nurturing of humanity and our home being the centermost inspiration for WoC, we see working with women towards empowerment as an intrinsic part of this journey.

We are in motion, both riding and simultaneously generating the wave of positive change. We are flowing away from an old consciousness and towards a new balanced way of being in which we approach each other and our home wielding collaboration, connection, creativity and compassion. 

In order to arrive on the shore we must recognize women as the unique embodiment of these feminine energies and look towards the awakened ‘Terra Ma’ or ‘feminine wisdom’ within each human.

As each individual loves and values their own innate ‘Terra Ma’ as well as the reflection in each other, our wave will naturally rise up and exist in balance and wholeness where we nurture and honor all of humanity and our home.

Today we honor people who are choosing to empower themselves and others through the offering of their unique skills and traditions, those choosing to connect with the global community despite the challenges, those who are co-creating a new reality; making us proud of the ‘Terra Ma’ in us all.

Khi ba ta na!