Kommaly Chanthavong – Laos

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “We strengthen the position of women by giving them a dependable income and thus improving the chances of their children” … “I learned to weave from my mother when I was six years old, and I loved it” … “I met many desperately poor families displaced from rural areas without any marketable skills, so I started to teach the women how to weave silk” … “Our greatest challenge is to compete against cheaper, low-quality” … imports”.

Read: the cycle of silk production.

Kommaly Chanthavong - Laos two rogné.JPG

Kommaly Chanthavong – Laos

She works for the Phontong cooperative for the production of silk, with the Lao Sericulture Company named Mulberries.

Kommaly Chantavong (born 1950) is a farmer’s daughter from the mountains of eastern Laos. When her village was bombed by the Americans in 1961, she fled to Vientiane. In 1976, she founded a cooperative for the production of silk, which she still heads. The cooperative teaches mostly women traditional skills in raising silkworms, making natural dyes and weaving traditional patterns. The successful marketing of the products provides a fair and steady income to several hundred families that used to be very poor.

Kommaly was 11 years old when her village was destroyed by US bombers attacking the Ho Chi Minh Trail. She walked for a month to Vientiane, the capital, bringing with her silk weaving skills that her family has been engaged in for generations.

Kommaly studied nursing, but then she found the goal of her life: In 1976, she founded a cooperative with 10 members; now there are more than 3,000. Kommaly runs it like a mother: energetic, efficient and warm-hearted.

In a model farm which she manages with her equally dedicated husband, Kommaly offers courses for free on the production of high-quality textiles: from raising silkworms (the most difficult part), to growing mulberry trees for their fodder, to spinning the ultra-fine threads, to preparing natural dyes, to weave traditional patterns. The results are available in a shop that Kommaly set up in Vientiane and which guarantees the silk producers fair and steady earnings.

One of her daughters helps with the marketing in Australia, another in the United States. “Our goal is to strengthen the position of women by giving them a dependable income and thus improve the chances of their children”, says Kommaly with a gentle but radiant smile. (1000PeaceWomen).

See also some Bio on this ‘Ten Thousand Villages‘-page.

Kommaly Chanthavong Visits Ten Thousand Villages Stores: August 21, 2006 – Ten Thousand Villages is privileged to have hosted Lao artisan Kommaly Chanthavong, a compassionate artisan with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Chanthavong traveled from Laos to visit Ten Thousand Villages and Partner stores in August and September, offering customers the chance to meet her and witness the fine silk weaving craft that preserves traditions and sustains families at the Phontong Handicrafts Cooperative in Laos. (full text).

links:

Her visit to America, commented on The Global Gallery; on Short North Gazette; on Found for Reconciliation and Development;

VientianeTimes.com;

House Committee on Ways and Means.gov;

Silk & life skills.

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