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Empowerment of Women

Sewing Machines from Australia Donated to Vanuatu Women

Imaelone, Vanuatu - Five years ago manual sewing machines were donated by the Women's Federation for World Peace-Australia to the ladies in Imaelone Village, Western Tanna. The women used them while sitting on mats on the floor of their women's center.

Recently, Ingleburn High School in Sydney upgraded their sewing room machines and graciously donated their used machines to the Women's Federation in Sydney, through contact via our national website and state president, Aila Willitts. The machines were then transported to Vanuatu.

The New Village Movement co-ordinator Rev. Jong Dueg Yoo was then able to arrange for electricity to be connected to the community center in the village in anticipation of the machines' arrival. With our arrival a ceremony was held to officially present the seven machines to Tess, the wife of the Taffeta Province President, Nakau Natuman, on behalf of the village.

There was great excitement as men brought tables from homes in the village to be used as work tables. Women quickly covered them with colorful cloths, and the machines unboxed, put in place and plugged in. Celine began with the basics, filling the bobbin. The sound of the bobbins filling caused shrieks of delight to explode from all the women. Threading the machine correctly was a very serious affair. Then came the time to sew, and again shrieks of delight and wonder at the speed of the action. Men stood and wandered around in the background, quite curious and a little in awe of what their women were experiencing.

Everyone was very eager to have their turn at these new-fangled machines. Many women proved to be quite adept, and soon the sound of the racing machines filled the air as one by one they were taken over. Brightly colored fabrics seemed to suddenly appear from nowhere, as some women rushed home and returned with eyes wide with determination and intention of sewing new curtains, new dresses, and new tablecloths. There seemed to be no stopping them.

Those not at a machine were invited to learn to crochet, suggesting that they start with simple squares which can serve as good cleaning cloths. By the next day, great progress had been made with the crocheting but cleaning cloths were not the desired end product. Everyone wanted a bag.

The first day there was a four-hour session, and the following day a six-hour session interspersed with lunch which had been prepared by the women. The bag of fabrics and notions was unpacked on this day. The women were initially hesitant to investigate but quietly and surely each piece of fabric was taken by the end of the session, with skirts, cushion covers, shirts and curtains, all in the process of being made. Embroidery settings where shown to one lady who sewed and sewed until unfortunately her machine burnt out.

All in all it was a wonderful experience. To provide an activity for women to gather together and be productive is a wonderful thing. While caring for their babies, toddlers and small children, they can create items for their families, for gifts or for sale. To hear the sound of women chattering and laughing as sewing machines buzzed and children played and cried in the background was truly a joyous experience. Even the local dogs gathered around, and one puppy slept while resting its head on a skein of yarn.

It was a privilege to interact with such warm, generous and proud people. Although this first visit was for only two days, volunteers hope to visit them again, bringing more fabrics, patterns, notions and machine spare parts.

Many of the women's eyesight seemed to be poor. At one stage, one pair of glasses was being handed around and shared to aid in the threading of needles and even crocheting. Thus, donations of reading glasses are also being sought.

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