Malaysian housewives turn businesswomen, thanks to RYTHM Foundation
M. Mageswari, 44 was working in a factory when found out about the free tailoring lessons offered by the Association of Social Services and Community Development of Gombak Selangor (PSPK) through a friend, three years ago.
“When I went to the centre and discovered that they also offer baking classes, I was very excited and wanted to join. However, after giving it some thought, I realised that tailoring skills will help me to earn more than baking, so I decided to learn tailoring instead,” she said.
“In the beginning, I was taught how to handle the sewing machine and then slowly I was introduced to cutting materials. I had taken some tailoring lessons when I was much younger, so it didn’t take me very long to learn the techniques,” she said.
Mageswari is grateful for her sister and mother-in-law who took turns to watch over her children, while she attended the tailoring night classes held every Monday and Wednesday.
Six months later, Mageswari began sewing to earn a part-time income. The additional money that she was making helped her pay for her children’s education.
“After taking the classes, I had more confidence to approach people for sewing orders. I received sewing orders for curtains, women’s tops, cushion covers and Indian style tunics for men. I started making an additional income of RM 600 a month,” she said.
She soon gave up her job at the factory and became a fulltime tailor.
“At the factory, I used to work 8am to 5pm and the pay was less than RM1,000. Now, with my own business, I can keep an eye on the children, attend to household chores and earn an income, all from home,” she said.
Apart from the orders from her usual customers, Mageswari sometimes gets additional income when the PSPK officers call her to sew for their projects or bring her big orders.
A.Iruthayamary, 45, who attended the PSPK free tailoring classes together with Mageswari said she had basic skills in tailoring and wanted to improve herself so that she can start a tailoring business.
“At that time, I could do some minor alterations but I wasn’t skilled enough to take sewing orders from others,” she explained.
Six months later, Iruthayamary became confident enough to call herself a professional tailor and began to take orders to sew curtain and cushion covers.
“I also managed to secure a contract with a company managing a marriage hall to stitch curtains for their dining area. They paid me RM 200 for the job and that was a great encouragement for me to take orders from others,” she said.
PSPK officers also bring her orders from retail clients and she is grateful for the extra income which goes a long way to sustain her family of three school-going children.
With the skills she gained from the PSPK training, Iruthayamary became more confident to ask around for sewing jobs.
“Earlier, some of my friends gave me small jobs wherein I would outsource some of the work and get commissions of up to RM 200 per month. But now with my improved skills, I can get up to RM 600 per month as I can sew the entire garment myself without outsourcing,” she said.
“Now we are living in a low-cost flat. I hope one day own a terrace house where my children can have more space and even their own rooms,” she said.
RYTHM Foundation works closely with PSPK in Malaysia to provide new skills to single mothers and women from disadvantaged backgrounds. We hope with the new skills, the women will be able to support and uplift their families and provide their children with new opportunities.