In downtown Yangon on historical
Pansodan Street, in a shop above Sharky’s you’ll find a unique display of
useful hand-crafted items — like laptop sleeves, belts and toiletry bags
refashioned from rubber tires and a line of jewelry made from newspaper and semi-precious
stones. Established more than a year ago, the Hla Day shop is a social
enterprise headed by German native Ulla Kroeber who has spent 8 years living in
Myanmar since 1994.
“Our main aim is to provide jobs and we do that through creating contemporary
crafts. We give design advice,” Kroeber said.
All of Hla Day’s products are made by people from disadvantaged backgrounds or
with disabilities or sicknesses.
When needy artisans approach Hla Day, their
designs are either accepted or rejected, and if accepted — the artisans are
given advice for the fine-tuning of their product and often business training
too. All profits from sales in the shop are used for the empowerment of the
community producers, according to Kroeber. Product ideas that come through the
door are often not ready for sale so Hla Day gives design advice and business
guidance to the producer following three criteria: the producer’s ability,
material availability and the products compatibility with the shop.
explained, “We either tweak and twist the existing product or create a new
“We found that when we work with people and we make a
product, they find it really difficult to calculate their price so we realized
that most producers also need business training. We provide this for them too.”
There’s new line of placemats and matching napkins which are made by a group of
widowed women living with HIV who connected with Hla Day through an NGO called
Action for Public. Ms Kroeber says product consistency is one of the biggest
challenges, articulating a need to maintain a high quality of the products for
sale. More than 40 producer groups currently work with Hla Day to supply the
hand-crafted works, all of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds including
the disabled, those living with HIV and some struggle to sustain small family
“We don’t want to be in competition
with the local market — we want to broaden the market and bring contemporary
creations to the shop,” said Ms Kroeber.
Other Hla Day products include modern clothes and soft furnishings made with
traditional Myanmar fabrics as well as traditional papier-mâché toy animals,
household decorations made from recycled newspapers, rag dolls, greetings cards
and more. A new collection features a range of products from Kayah State
provided by a Dutch-funded inclusive tourism project that focuses on
community-based tourism in Kayah State. The jewelry is crafted from disused
brass coils once worn by the women of the Kayan ethnic group in Kayah State.
The Hla Day team members are working on a “Library in a Box” project in
conjunction with Third Story Project to produce a concept called Pass it On
which provides a platform for visitors, tourists or any person wishing to
contribute to society here to buy a library in a box. The Libraries in a Box
contain 22 children’s books as well as a teacher’s guide and include two
postcards on which the donor can send the recipients a message and hopefully
receive one in return. The Third Story Project team then delivers the books to
a needy school or a selected community group.
“No one is getting rich from this but it provides people with a decent income
so they can send their kids to school,” said Ms Kroeber.
Hla Day is located on 81 Pansodan Street and open daily from 10:00am to 9:30pm.
For more information about Hla Day and their current projects, go to www.hladaymyanmar.org or
visit their Facebook page.