By Ms. Wakako MATSUMOTO (Minamata Church, Fukuoka Diocese)
<Agriculture and Art craft workshop>
About 20 women attended the workshop. They are from Chiang Mai, Chiangrai, Mae Hong Son, Phayao and other northern areas. Some of them had attended the seminar last year and said that they could have got to know the people and situation of other areas and been a meaningful one. A few men attended the workshop this year, too, which will help people to understand and support the activities carried on by women.
The workshop began with the retreat leaded by Sister's talk to reflect our experience and see how much it was connected to our religious faith.
After the retreat, we introduced ourselves. One Karen woman started telling the reason why she attended the workshop. She is always positively doing the activities. "I want to get ideas from the seminar to make use of our traditional technique to revitalize the area." We felt her strong thoughts on their traditional technique and own race. Her statement made the atmosphere of the workshop rather serious.
There were a lot of reports of the activities by each participant. Most of the villages which are involved in DISAC and RTRC do organic farming and natural dyeing and the village people consider the pollution by agricultural chemicals and other chemicals more seriously. Now more people understand the importance of organic farming and reducing the agricultural chemicals. But still many of them worry that their lives depend on chemicals too much and even their ethnic costumes are dyed by chemicals. The process of natural dyeing takes more time than the chemical one. In some of the villages people do not have time to weave and often buy the cloth from other villages and it affects the family finance.
Though people have the different situations, but now many women operate natural dyeing and traditional weaving. Their problem is that they cannot get the consistent income as their sales network is not enough and sometimes the income is less than the cost of materials.
We discussed to find how the villages and the participants could cooperate with each other. We appointed one volunteer staff from each area and decided to hold a debriefing once in three month at RTRC. We also resolved that the participants would visit the villages where the women did the weaving actively to learn and exchange the information. We are considering of providing financial support from the Center for minor tribe women to the group with financial problem for purchasing the materials.
RTRC staff and all the participants hope that the women from each community will continue to attend the workshop and it will be carried over into younger generation.