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Ba Na minority woman in Kon Tum develops art of brocade weaving

A Ba Na ethnic minority woman, Y Thoai, has become as one of the most successful businesswomen in her birthplace of Kon Tum Township, in the Central Highlands province of the same name.

The 30-year-old women who started her business from scratch six years ago is now managing the Tay Nguyen Brocade Weaving Co-operative that was established entirely through her efforts.

Twenty years ago, her mother, Y Chrut, was a province-wide famous brocade weaver in Quang Trung Ward's Plei To Ngia Village who had a desire to not only maintain but also develop the village's traditional handicraft.

Y Chrut encouraged her little daughter to sit at the table to observe and learn each design character she was weaving. Y Thoai, who was then only seven years old, tool all the pieces of silk left over from her mother's work to weave small pieces of brocade. When she lacked silk, Y Thoai tore fibre from the bark of banana trees to practise weaving cloth.

In 1994, seeing how her daughter had improved her skills, the elder craftswoman gave her 100,000 VND as initial capital to buy fabrics.

Y Thoai called on some friends and young girls in the village to set up a brocade-weaving team. The team at first attracted 12 people producing mainly basket handles and T-shirts that were sold at regional markets.

Five years later, the team stopped functioning because most of the members got married and lacked the time to continue weaving brocade. Y Thoai, with the support of her family, then attended a training course for community-based medical workers at Kon Tum Medical College.

However, after completing the course and getting married, she decided to continue the traditional brocade weaving business. She opened a brocade agency at Kon Klor Village that produced cloth on order for customers from across the province, and started a training course for local young people under her management.

Y Thoai also was in charge of designing all products at the agency. But, she revealed, to design sophisticated products it takes a long time to master and she herself learnt from catalogues, friends and from other garment companies' products.

Y Thoai said she was also employed at a company in Ho Chi Minh City to study weaving and sewing methods.

Being the proud owner of a showroom and a successful weaving workshop in her village of birth, Y Thoai has a desire to further develop the traditional handicraft. Last August, in an effort to help young people get skills training, she set up a project to get a loan for expanding the workshop and training activities.

Thanks to the financial help from the province's handicraft extension centre and her family, she set up the Tay Nguyen Brocade Weaving Co-operative last November with registered capital of VND 65 million.

Products of the co-operative now are attracting not only domestic customers, but also foreign visitors when they came to Kon Tum province.

Seven official members of the co-operative have stable incomes of VND 1.5 million to VND 2 million a month, while 30 seasonal workers also are provided average earnings of between VND 450,000 and VND 800,000.

Y Thoai has plans to establish another worker training project for 30 local young people, with the aim to develop the handicraft industry even further.

Nhan Dan - (03/07/2006)

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