Sewing a brighter future for Armenian womenPublished: Aug 2, 2021 Reading time: 3 minutes
As part of the EU-funded COVID-19 Solidarity Programme for the Eastern Partnership project, People in Need (PIN) is providing support to the MIHR Creators Union (MIHR), an Armenian non-profit organisation which donated sewing machines to 50 vulnerable women in the city of Vanadzor.
One of the beneficiaries of the project is Metaksia Miskaryan, who lives in an old housing estate in a suburb of Vanadzor. There is a photo of her mother on the wall. She passed away. Metaksia lives alone and subsists largely on government subsidies due to an injury she suffered as a teenager. Miskaryan says, “I became disabled as a result of the earthquake in December of 1988, when I was 16 years old. The building stayed steady, but the walls collapsed, injuring my leg. After many surgeries, I ended up needed to have my leg amputated.”
Despite these challenges, Miskaryan is optimistic and full of energy. She has always been creative, and her past projects have included the design and sale of handcrafted dolls in national dress. She was very pleased to receive a sewing machine through the project and notes, “I wouldn’t have been able to buy a sewing machine, even in installments, but now I can start taking orders and earning a living. I have already made 800 gift bags for one company.” Unfortunately, sometimes it can be difficult for Miskarayan to purchase sewing materials from the small pension she receives.
The project also employs a peer-to-peer model to support more than one vulnerable segment of the population, and to enable vulnerable populations to support one another. For instance, Miskarayan and other beneficiaries were asked to sew bedding for seniors in select retirement homes. The bedding was also donated to other vulnerable groups, together with socks and original posters made by local artists; Miskarayan actually received a gift of bedding herself. Through this model, the MIHR project reached 290 direct beneficiaries.
Though the seamstresses had to stay home during the lockdown, the chance to help others brought them much satisfaction. “I benefited twice. I had both a job and the feeling that I was helping others,” says Miskarayan, while working on a pillow cover on her new sewing machine.
Metaksia Miskaryan always thinks big, and she does not want to stop at sewing; she has plans to open the first antique shop in Vanadzor. “I will definitely find a place for the sewing machine in the shop, and I will continue to use it there,” she adds with a smile.
MIHR is one of the civil society organisations supported by People in Need (PIN) within the EU-funded COVID-19 Solidarity Programme for the Eastern Partnership. The aim of this project is to mitigate the adverse effects of COVID-19 and to contribute to the longer-term socioeconomic resilience of vulnerable groups in Eastern Europe. Implemented by PIN, in partnership with the Netherlands Helsinki Committee and AFEW International, the project includes interventions in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.