International Women's Day: AMMA Manager, Meena's Story.
Happy International Women’s Day from the AMMA team!
As 2020’s International Women’s Day drew to a close we felt renewed energy. No one expects a sudden change after just one day, but our hopes and determinations were heightened in the prospect of someday witnessing a gender balanced world.
It is safe to say that not many would have predicted the things that March 2020 onwards held for us. We have had to consider our fragility as humans as never before. A global pandemic, racist murders, systematic oppression, and economic disarray are a few of the pains with which the world has been confronted.
Women have been at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, as front line and health sector workers, as scientists, doctors and caregivers, yet they are paid 11% less globally than their male counterparts. Existing trends point to less access to sexual reproductive health and a rise in domestic violence during the crisis.
However, these are problems with solutions. Solutions that can exist if we provide help.
With a new hopeful rhyme and rhythm for the future, we are thrilled to be championing this years United Nation’s theme ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”
This year’s #ChoosetoChallenge is a rally cry to celebrate the tremendous efforts by women in shaping a more equal future. To mark the moment, we have interviewed a few incredibly inspirational female business founders who are close to AMMA’s heart.
To kick us off, our first IWD blog post of the week introduces our cherished workshop manager, Meena, and her story of overcoming.
Initially published in AMMA’s Learn The Yellows Dye Guide, written by Josie with the permission of Meena.
We’re pretty certain Meena was the first woman in the world to discover that the famous orange coconut, native to Sri Lanka ‘thambili’ coaxes a beautiful dusky pink. We can’t prove it, but we’ve got a strong hunch. Her determination, commitment, and ability to find wonder in our shared passion has allowed AMMA to thrive and become a locally led social enterprise.
“I can be a role model in teaching people the benefits of natural dyeing.”
Providing Meena with a job that allows her to lead within her community carries important significance, because her story, like many women living on Sri Lanka’s tea estates, is one that forced her to take up work in the Middle East to support her young family.
Married at 19 and sadly losing her husband to cancer early on in life, she had the full responsibility to raise their two young children. She battled the cultural prejudices of not having a partner, along with economic struggles and inadequate housing. The small salary she was earning, working in a garment factory was not enough to give her children a good education.
Meena decided to go to the Middle East to work under the promise of a better salary. However, all was not as initially thought. Meena was held under house arrest and forced to work a year longer than the initial two years she had committed to. She had no option but to lie and say her daughter was dying in order to escape, returning to Sri Lanka with only the clothes on her back.
Providing fairly paid employment to women within the communities that they live solves a whole heap of problems. It’s simple stuff. If we can do it, it’s proof that anyone can. Providing employment to mothers means that children are cared for and it allows them to feel the presence of their mother during the most formative time of their lives. It means rural communities start to thrive, local economies are strengthened, and cities become less crowded. It means women have greater control over household finances, with less money feeding alcoholism and more money to see their children prosper.
Meena’s daughter is “my role model who encourages me”. Now the Director of a large Sri Lankan NGO working to help the most marginalised living on Sri Lanka’s tea estates, and one of the directors of AMMA, Meena’s daughter is a testament to her mother’s courage and selfless love.
When whittled down to the individual, the promising picture of gender balance and global feminism holds tremendous power for women like Meena. As she concludes:
“As a widow, being able to grow my children with sound education is significant to me on International Women’s Day.”
It is often a mystery as to how a person develops their tenacious spirit, to overcome the challenges life throws at them. Is it something we are born with or a virtue crafted over time? One thing we are sure of is that by sharing stories of overcoming adversity, vulnerably, we lay the path for future generations to walk.
If you enjoyed this blog post, then keep your eyes peeled for further interviews and stories from women all around the world who challenge the status quo by daring to lead with vulnerability and a generous heart – coming up this week!
In the meantime, we are offering 20% off all products available on our online shop until Mother’s Day when you use the code MOTHER20%. Made by mothers – this is the perfect gift for the mother in your life.
Written by Josie Mackenzie and Izzy Bevir