Mae Sot – There are more than 1.2 million migrant workers employed in Thailand’s relatively small, yet valuable, garment sector. Many of them arrive from neighboring countries in pursuit of a brighter future.
Tin Zar Lin, 32, along with her three sisters, left Myanmar and moved to Thailand a couple of years ago in hope of finding better work opportunities. With limited knowledge and skills, she started her first-ever work in a garment factory in Mae Sot district, Tak province that is a garment manufacturing hub in Northern Thailand.
“My relatives helped me get a job at the garment factory in the folding and packaging unit. When I first arrived, I did not know how to sew. After 7 years, with the help of my friends and colleagues, I was finally able to sew professionally,” said Lin.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put economic burdens and financial stress on many households. Lin and her family have been among those disproportionately affected as the closure of the garment factory left them unemployed.
“We were allowed neither to go out from our accommodations nor to go to the factory for a month,” she said. “There was only one seller who would bring food supplies to our dormitory. We had no choice but to eat what he had brought.”
Grappling with financial difficulties, Lin had to take up a loan from her employer to make ends meet during the lockdown. Today, she is back to work at her full capacity to make sure she repays her debt.
Lin hopes that one day she can return to Myanmar with her two sons who live with her in Mae Sot. She ensures her children go to school every day and receive proper education so that they can lead a better life in the future. Lin is among nearly 6,000 Myanmar migrant workers trained by IOM Thailand and the World Vision Foundation, on safe migration and migrant workers’ labour rights as part of the Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking in the fashion industry (CREST Fashion).
“The key to planning a migration journey is having adequate knowledge and information about one’s rights and access to social services. This knowledge helps workers in negotiating proper working and living conditions as well as spread awareness among friends and colleagues,” said a migrant volunteer who led the community outreach on behalf of IOM and World Vision.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, through CREST Fashion, IOM worked to prevent migrant workers from becoming irregular through raising their awareness of the pathways to maintain their regular status while in Thailand. Migrant volunteers, capacitated by the World Vision, tailored the awareness sessions to meet the specific needs of women migrant workers like Lin. As a result, these workers are now better aware of the ways to access social services and legally guaranteed entitlements in Thailand, including healthcare for women and their children or the social security benefits for mothers, among others.
“I will use this knowledge to build a better future for my family. I want to go back to Myanmar someday and pass on what I have learned to my friends and family back home who are considering migrating for work,” said Lin.
The community outreach among migrant workers employed in the garment sector in Tak province was made possible through the support of Laudes Foundation under the CREST Fashion initiative. CREST Fashion is a regional partnership that aims to realize the potential of business to uphold the rights of migrant workers in their operations and supply chains.
Note: The interview was conducted in Myanmar language and translated to English.