Before Kak Siti Salwah joined the Batik Boutique, she worked in the supermarket Tesco where she had to stop work due to a leg injury. Her leg was so bad that she had to be hospitalized. It was so weak that no establishment would employ her until she was introduced to the Batik Boutique through one of her friends. She was unsure about starting as a seamstress because she had only sewn for six months seven years ago but decided to try it anyway because she needed the cash flow badly. Her children’s school fees were still unpaid and meeting basic needs was becoming a challenge. Her family was living from paycheck to paycheck, waiting for her eldest son’s (now 27 years old) salary to clear. She mentioned that even getting KFC for her kids after school was a very rare occasion that had to be thought about very carefully.
But after sewing for the Batik Boutique, she was able to earn a steady stream of income. She loves that her salary is dependent on how much work she puts into the Batik Boutique. She also loves the fact that being a seamstress is perfectly tailored to her lifestyle since she does not have to keep normal work hours, clock in or out or travel a far distance to be employed. The Batik Boutique’s sewing centre is right beside her apartment giving her easy access and the flexibility to go back and forth between work and home in order to keep house, take care of her children and earn a sustainable income. She no longer has to wait for her son’s paycheck to clear because she receives her own paycheck every time she finishes a project. Her family’s living standard is now not based on anyone but herself. This newfound sense of independence and freedom to manage her time in accordance with her family’s needs not only has increased her productivity significantly but also has increased her skill level. She revealed that she has improved immensely in her sewing ability and continues to challenge herself with varying pieces in our product line.
We asked her what her most challenging task is at the moment and she replied that the last step in the pouch making process was the hardest because of the top stitching involved. This is where the seamstress must sew the tough fabric of the zipper to the rest of the batik material in a smooth, straight line. Her favorite sewing project is the nursing cover because it’s both challenging yet easy because there are very few parts to attach. Through sewing, her end goal is to create enough disposable income for her children to reach farther and higher than herself. She wants them to grow up to have the means to be successful.
In her free time, Kak Siti enjoys reading, cooking, and spending quality time with her youngest son. She likes cooking anything soupy and is satisfied when her children enjoy the dish. She also finds completing products for the Batik Boutique to be a very satisfying task to accomplish since she gets to see the end result of sewing a piece of fabric into a product. This way she appreciates the effort she puts into production and always strives to get better and learn from her mistakes. Her progress in her sewing capabilities continuously encourages her and new methods of obtaining the end result peak her interest.
But her story does not end here. Kak Siti needs a reliable income source in order to be financially stable. The support garnered from the buying and selling of the Batik Boutique’s batik merchandise produces the results seen in Kak Siti’s life. People like her are the faces behind the fabric whipped into our hand-crafted Batik Boutique items. Appreciation given to local artisans affords them the hope to dream beyond their immediate necessities and focus on their family’s future. It allows an escape route from the cycle of poverty and the low income threshold. But most importantly the Batik Boutique’s sewing program allows seamstresses to be self-reliant, improve in skill, gain contacts and increase their quality of life.