Women’s sewing co-op gets a hand

A local co-op that helps Afghan refugee women with employment, work
skills and English was saved from closure thanks to local MLA John
Nuraney.

The Malalay Afghan Women’s Sewing and Crafts Cooperative
in Burnaby was on the verge of folding last summer due to lack of
funding. Nuraney heard of the women’s plight and helped secure two
government grants to cover the group’s rent for about a year-and-a-half.

"I
was so happy," said co-op board member Leila Akhtary. "Not only me, all
the ladies were happy. We didn’t know how to say, ‘Thank you, God and
John.’"

Nuraney said the co-op had been asking him for help for a long time.

"They
are the women who have come from Afghanistan. They are in their 40s and
50s now, with very little working experience," Nuraney said. "When they
came here, they found themselves totally isolated. … I felt they
needed help."

Nuraney helped secure a $40,000 grant from the
Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance, arguing it was in the
government’s best interest to support the co-op as it keeps the women
independent and off welfare. He then helped get a second gaming grant
of $26,000.

 

Helping hands: Leila Akhtary, seated, with (from left) Sedigheh Derkhshan, John Nuraney, Najiba Ahmadzai and Alya Sarwari at the women’s sewing co-op.

Photo contributed/BURNABY NOW

"So, they are very happy," Nuraney said, adding the
co-op helps the women psychologically and financially as they can earn
an income while learning skills to use in Canada.

"It has been a great help to them," he said. "It’s to make them independent."

Akhtary concurred.

"These
ladies … are coming here, they have depression because they come from
(a war-torn) country. They’ve lost so many: husband, brother, sisters,
family," she said, adding to sit and talk in their language also helps.

The
grants came through around March. When asked why there wasn’t a press
release issued, Nuraney said, "This was a real community cause. I
didn’t want to give it a slant, that I did it for some media publicity.
It was genuine help."

The co-op borrowed money to cover rent until the grants came through.

Akhtary said the co-op can now stay open until August 2009.

There are 12 women in the co-op; all are from Afghanistan but now live in Burnaby and Surrey. See www.malalaycooperative.com.

© Burnaby Now 2008