Kulshum Begum

Kulshum Begum is from Tula Toli, a village in north-eastern Rakhine state. This village was the site of a pre-planned massacre by the Burmese military. Kulshum lost every member of her family with the exception of her husband. She and her husband managed to flee to Bangladesh.

What is your first memory of work?

When I was very young, I would go to school. Later I would tend to our cows and goats.

How do you feel about Testimony Tailors?

I am grateful to be part of this. I am very grateful to the person who purchased my sewing machine. With this income, I have been able to buy food and medicines. At the moment, I have made one or two items of clothing per month. I hope that will increase. If our organisation can manage more orders, it will be better for us.

What do you miss most about your home in Burma?

I miss my sister who was killed. I miss our land and our property.

What do you think about the future?

To tell you the truth I don’t know what to think. I have a baby now. I don’t know what to think.

What would you like to do in the future?

If we can get more work from the cooperative, that is what we want.

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      Minara

      Minara is 17 years old and is from a village called Tula Toli (or Min Gyi, in Burmese). On 30 August 2017, the 99th Light Infantry Division of the Myanmar army carried out a massacre in that village. Minara was hit by three bullets and was lucky to have survived. She lost four members of her own family on that day.

      What is your earliest memory of work?

      Before i was in my teens, I used to go to madrassah. When I came home, I would tend to our livestock. We had 6 cows and 3 goats. When I reached puberty, I stayed at home and did housework.

      What would you like to do in the future?

      I would like to go back to Myanmar. When i think about it, I want to go back immediately. But then I remember it is not possible. My mother died there. My sister died there. My sister-in-law died there. And my brother’s little daughter too. All of them were killed and I saw it all with my own eyes. I am not sure how I did not die. When we were all desperately crossing the river to Wut Kyein, I was hit three times whilst still in the water. On the other side we took shelter in a graveyard. I thought I would die there.

      I would like to get married someday. But that is not possible. No man will accept me because of the scars I have. And in any case they demand too much and my family can’t afford it.

      Do you like your sewing machine?

      I look after my sewing machine like it was my baby. It means a lot to me to be able to get some income and buy the necessary things. Life is hard here. This machine helps a little bit.

      Read more Testimony Tailors’ profiles here.

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          Azma Begum

          Azma Begum is 18 and comes from the village of Tula Toli in north eastern Rakhine State, Myanmar. She lost her 15 year old sister in the massacre that took place in her village on 30 August 2017.

          What is your earliest memory of work?

          When I young, I would attend moktob ( a religious school). I helped to look after our family cattle and I did household work.

          What happened to your family on 30th August?

          The hamlet in which we lived – Chor Para – was the worst affected. So many people from that hamlet were slaughtered and killed, including small children. Nur Ankis, my 15 year old sister, died in the attack. It was really difficult to cross the river. That was the most difficult day of my life.

          Do you think back about your village?

          What can I do? I think about it automatically. I miss my home, our vegetable patch, our property, our livestock. I used to love gathering our vegetable produce.

          What do you want to see in the future?

          Will we ever go back to Burma? I want to be recognised as a Rohingya and I want to go back. But will we ever do that?

          What about here in Bangladesh? What do you want to do?

          After receiving my sewing machine, the income helped me feed my child, my in-laws, and I could even buy some cosmetics. It has been very good for us. I really enjoy sewing. It makes me happy. I hope there will be more orders for all of us.

          Read more Testimony Tailors’ profiles here.

          Support Testimony Tailors by buying a gift for another refugee from their online shop here. You will be emailed a photo of your gift delivered.

              Hasina

              Hasina comes from the village of Tula Toli, north eastern Rakhine. On 30th August 2017, Tula Toli was attacked by the Myanmar military as part of its “clearance operations.” Hundreds of Rohingya lost their lives in perhaps the biggest massacre of the 2017 crisis. Hasina lost three members of her family, including her husband.

              What work did you do in Tula Toli?

              I used to sew. I did that for three years.

              What do you miss about home in Myanmar?

              I miss my husband and our home. I miss the fact that we could move around in our village. Here it is difficult. We could eat properly too.

              What are your concerns about the future?

              I am worried about my two young children. One is five and the other is three years old. There is no one to look after them. Their father is no more. What will happen if something happens to me?

              What has been your experience of being part of the Testimony Tailors cooperative?

              I am very grateful to be part of this. I get really happy when we get work. I can treat the children, do some grocery shopping and buy medicines. I really hope we get more work in the future. It is difficult to get income outside of the cooperative because everyone has a sewing machine these days.

              Read more Testimony Tailors’ profiles here.

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                  Laila

                  Laila lives in the largest refugee camp in the world – Kutupalong. Her Rohingya parents fled Myanmar in the influx of 1992. Laila, who is now 18, lost her father when she was four years old. Her mother did not have the means to support her two children, and unable to feed them properly, she sent the two sisters to live with relatives. After a difficult three years, the sisters started work as domestic servants in the homes of Bangladeshis.

                  What is your earliest memory of work?

                  At my first job, when I was only 7, I remember being made to grind hot dried chillies. Within ten minutes, my hands were burning. And then somehow I got some of the powdered chilli by the side of eye. It just got worse and worse. I got into a real state. I laugh now thinking about it but at the time I didn’t know what I was doing and I got scolded for being so useless. I am still scared of grinding chilli. Haha.

                  How were you treated in these households where your worked?

                  I wasn’t treated well. In one household, when the entire family went out somewhere, they would lock me up in the toilet. At another place, during winter time, they did not give me a warm quilt. I persuaded my uncle to take me out of another household. They would make me wash clothes all day long. It was exhausting and I was badly treated too. None of the households I worked in paid me properly. Some did not pay me at all.

                  Why do you still do household work for others?

                  I have no choice. I have to feed myself. I work for food. My husband used to be able to do day labour work. However he got involved in a scam. Every penny we saved up over four years, some 50,000 Bangladeshi taka (approx £475 or $590 USD), was taken from him. And he was so badly beaten that he still can’t do any lifting work. We get rations. We sell some of it and we use what we need. But you can’t live on that stuff.

                  Do you like your sewing machine?

                  I have wanted a sewing machine for a long time. I learnt how to use it a few years ago. Getting my first dress sold was so nice. And the internet buyer sent a very nice message to us. I could not believe it. This machine will help me a lot. When I go to bed at night, I often look at it. And really, I can’t believe that I own one. It makes me happy.

                  I don’t want my child to go through what I did. I don’t know what the future holds for us. I keep trust in God.

                  Read more Testimony Tailors’ profiles here.

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                      Laila Begum

                      Laila Begum is from Tula Toli. Hundreds of people were slaughtered in her village on 30th August 2019. Laila lost 7 members of her family on that day, including 5 children aged between one 1.5 and 11 years old. She is a group leader of one of the groups of Testimony Tailors (organised by areas).

                      What kind of work did you do in Tula Toli?

                      I used to sew and of course I used to cook at home.

                      How has being a member of the cooperative helped you?

                      Having received a sewing machine, I have been able to buy some nice clothes. I don’t worry like I used to do regarding food. We have been able to buy things we want to eat. We have even been able to spend money just to have a nice time. As a group leader, I have been able to help others. I have been able to bring new people to the cooperative, and they are very grateful to me.

                      Is it difficult to be a group leader?

                      Haha. Sometimes we have some arguments but in the end we come together. It is good to be part of Testimony Tailors.

                      What do you miss about Myanmar?

                      I miss our house very much. We lived in the Doin Para. It was beautiful where we lived.

                      What about the future?

                      I am hoping we will continue to grow with Testimony Tailors. Without it we will be financially pinched. We worry about the future of course but we continue to have hope and our sewing group also gives me hope.

                      Read more Testimony Tailors’ profiles here.

                      Support Testimony Tailors by buying a gift for another refugee from their online shop here. You will be emailed a photo of your gift delivered.