Former migrant worker Raju Pariyar (pic above) is one of the lucky ones. During his four-year stint as a tailor in Malaysia, he was never once abused by his employer, he always received his pay on time, and he had decent living conditions.
He earned Rs 50,000 a month and was well treated by his boss who even offered to pay for his airfare back when he decided two years ago to return home to Kosi Dekha, a small farming village in Kavre to set up a jeans workshop.
“I spent a large part of my life living away from my family because of work,” says Pariyar who is married with two children, “opening this workshop was an effort at providing job opportunities to people in my village so they don’t have to move elsewhere.”
Starting with three sewing machines 18 months ago, Pariyar’s business now employs over ten people, men and women from surrounding villages. They work in a spacious corrugated tin shack that stands out in a village that had more than 90 per cent of its homes reduced to rubble in last year’s earthquake.
All employees are first trained in use of sewing machines and taught various stitching methods. Depending upon the individual’s ability the training period can last from a week to a month.
Pariyar says his workshop is targeted towards the youth in his village. “Even if they don’t want to continue working here, they would have at least learnt a new skill,” says the master tailor who worked for 20 years in Kathmandu before moving to Malaysia.
Each employee makes Rs 20 for every pair of jeans stitched which are sold to a supplier in Kathmandu. On average a worker makes 15 pairs of jeans a day, but there are those who can finish up to 25 pairs.
“Yes, the pay is nominal but when you add up an employee earns close to Rs 400 in a day which is a lot more than what he/she would make working as a farm help, the only other job available in the village,” says Pariyar.
Apsara Sunuwar, 20, was one of the first to join Pariyar’s workshop. A high school student Sunuwar says working at the shop has enabled her to pay for her own tuition and also contribute to the family’s income. The flexible working hours at the workshop has also helped Sunuwar balance her work and school life.
Pics: Catherine Feltham
“My classes run from 6 to 10am and after that I come here,” says Sunuwar.
Murahari Pariyar, 41, worked in construction before joining the workshop six months ago. His wife Sita Pariyar is also training to be a jeans tailor here.
“It’s definitely much easier than what I used to do before,” says Murahari. His wife agrees.
Pariyar’s workshop produces only children’s jeans for now, but he hopes to diversify his products with an increased workforce and better equipment.
“The goal is to have a factory with 30-35 sewing machines and a lot more people working,” says Pariyar, “that will not only be a sign of my success but also of the village.”
The only thing that stuck out in the denim produced here was the ‘Made in Thailand’ labels attached at the back. When asked, Pariyar admitted sheepishly: “The material is provided by the supplier so I have no say in it but you can be assured they are as good as any jeans made in Bangkok.”
Hounded out of Malaysia, Om Astha Rai
Staying home, Sonia Awale
Illegal, ill-treated, Om Astha Rai
Remitting knowhow, Ashutosh Tiwari
"Money from remittances should be used to create jobs at home"