Stitches of Tibet (SOT) is a non-profit vocational training program initiated by the Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) in 1995. The project provides opportunities for Tibetan women to become self-reliant. Priority is given to those refugees who have recently arrived from Tibet. An eighteen month course is given to approximately ten women in traditional Tibetan tailoring skills, western shirts and trousers. In addition the women receive an education in English, computing and maths.
Due to the current increase in unemployment of Tibetans in exile because of school dropouts, lack of academic or vocational qualifications, an influx of newly arriving refugees, unskilled and illiterate women, and single mothers with no source of income, TWA initiated “Stitches of Tibet.” SOT serves as an income generating project that aims to eventually become self-sustaining. Every eighteen months approximately ten trainees are selected. TWA ensures that 80% of the positions are reserved for newly arrived refugees and 20% of the positions are reserved for exile based. Priority is given to those applicants from low socio-economic backgrounds.
SOT is a project that promotes economic stability for Tibetan women living in exile. The positive effects of this program greatly improves the lives of many children and families living in exile. Withmore women being educated, our Tibetan community grows stronger and more empowered.
There is one full-time paid tailor, part-time subject tutors and also Tibetan and English language volunteers. As some of the women have not received any formal education, it is crucial for them to learn how to read and write in both Tibetan and English, as well as gain valuable skills in computing and maths that will help them in future employment.
Since 1998, SOT has been running by selling the products produced during the training period and additional handicrafts. This project aims to eventually become totally self-sufficient by generating income through selling items produced by the trainees. Former trainees are now working in well-established handicraft and tailoring centers in various Tibetan settlements.
Prior to 2011 this project had been running out of TWA’s own fund, with the little income generated not enough to cover all expenses. As of October 2011, new funding support from the Horizon Foundation has enabled TWA to expand the teaching of SOT (to add computing, maths and English lessons).
This project has been running with great success, as it is well accepted and received by the Tibetan community, however there is only a small fund to cover the women’s expenses. TWA is able to provide a Rs.2400 (approximately $50 – $60 USD depending on exchange rate) monthly stipend to each woman while she is enrolled in the program, but this is hardly enough to fully fund their daily necessities when many care for families.