Making a Living

Youth Economic Empowerment

Make for Good Skills Exchange

As part of Etsy and Plan International’s Make For Good campaign, two Australian Etsy artists, Cat from Cat Rabbit and Kirralee from Kirralee & Co participated in a skills exchange program with a group of women from our Youth Economic Empowerment program in Sri Lanka.  

Cat and Kirralee travelled to Batticaloa in the east of Sri Lanka in March 2017.  A warm welcome from the women at the vocational centre helped turn nerves into excitement, as all the makers sat together in a large circle in one of the centre’s classrooms – it was time for the crafting to begin. 

The Skills Exchange opened with the Sri Lankan women teaching Cat and Kirralee how to make cord out of coconut fibres which was then dyed and turned into colourful pencil holders. It took the Australian makers a little while to get the hang of, but they took it in their stride, with plenty of laughter. Kirralee explains: “It was hilarious when we weren’t able to do the skill they were teaching very well but the girls were so patient with us.”

In turn, Cat and Kirralee were able to share their crafts with the women with the hope that these skills might add to their arsenal as they grow their own businesses and livelihoods.

The Skills Exchange experience has made a lasting impact on both the makers. “In terms of perspective, even though I know it was only a small glimpse of the world I do really feel more connected with the global maker community now. Plan International’s work is so necessary and so well targeted that my business will continue to support Plan International throughout the year,” Kirralee said.

The way craft connects us was an important takeaway for Cat. “The skills exchange really highlighted the fact that making equals empowerment. I saw this in the women we met – and it reminded me of why I first started making things.”

Inspired by our work to empower girls, over 400 Etsy makers created a bespoke collection that reflected the theme of ‘creating brighter futures for girls around the world’, donating at least 20% of proceeds to Plan International. Together they helped raise over $38,000 to help support our work with women and girls.

Cat and Kiralee learn new skills
Cat and Kiralee learn new skills
Cat and Kiralee learn new skills
Women leaning new skills in Sri Lanka

Suhirtha Vivekananthan

25-year-old, participant in Plan International Sri Lanka’s Youth Economic Empowerment Program

Suhirtha's broom business is growing

"I really enjoyed meeting the Australian artists at the Etsy Skills exchange. It was a nice day talking with friendly women. I thought the products they made were very good quality and professional.

There are four of us in my family. My father is a labourer and my sister is studying her A-levels at school. My mother supports the family at home and I am studying Information Technology. 

To help with the family income, I completed Plan International's Economic Empowerment Training. I learned how to develop a business plan and was given a grant to expand our mother and daughter broom-making business. With this grant, I could buy more raw materials and we have now started selling our brooms in the local markets. 

The business is going well because people who have been using plastic brooms have begun to realise that it isn’t good for the environment. So as people become more eco-friendly, demand for our products are increasing. My goal is to hire some more people in my community as our business grows."

< Keep reading our 2017 Annual Report