Looking at these artworks, what do you think they are made of? Probably, many will say it is made of bamboo. But these hand-made products are made of newspaper by the courageous women of the Mongolian National Wheelchair Users’ Association (MNWUA).
The UB Post visited the MNWUA to get acquainted with their activities and to help them with acquiring raw materials, newspapers.
After entering the MNWUA’s small room and seeing all these hand-made products, our staff members were astounded by their originality and uniqueness. They make vases for flowers, fruit and vegetable containers, candy dishes, souvenirs, and a variety of boxes and baskets that can be used in many ways.
Bolor, the head of the MNWUA, explained the production process for us. She said that they first cut newspapers into a smaller strips, roll it tightly and then braid it. Around 500 pieces are cut from one kg of newspaper, and approximately 280 pieces are used to produce a medium-sized basket. After the product is made they seal it off with lacquer.
“When we say our products are made of newspaper, people usually think that they are fragile, but they are very durable,” a MNWUA member highlighted.
There are 15 disabled women who produce the hand-made products, according to the association, but working while being on a wheelchair presents many issues for the women.
“Some of us don’t come to the work, because of transportation difficulties and work from home,” Bolor said.
They also produce greeting and invitations cards for weddings, the National Naadam Festival, New Year’s celebration and Tsagaan Sar. There were also greeting cards ordered by companies like Oyu Tolgoi, APU and MCS.
Bolor emphasized that currently the MNWUA is the only workplace for women on wheelchairs. She added that there is a need to expand their market.
“The only difficulty we face is sales. We have looked to rent some booths, but they are expensive and we will need a salesperson,” Bolor said.
Bolor said that the association spends their income on purchasing raw materials and for the disabled women. If the state could support these women through policy, the sales issue can be fully resolved.
“We heard that tourists are really interested in hand-made products produced by disabled people, and when they travel to any country, they always visit their center to buy something. We hope to provide such an opportunity and open our own center in the future.”
Hand-made products are usually quite expensive in Mongolia, but the MNWUA’s products ranged from 2,000 to 20,000 MNT in price. Because they don’t have any sales booths, they sell their products through Beleg, a Facebook page. People interested in purchasing their products can visit the MNWUA directly, which is located in 19th khoroolol. The MNWUA members also organize trainings for those wishing to learn how their products are made for 25,000 MNT.
It was very inspiring for The UB Post to visit and see these courageous women working hard to make living despite their disability. We hope to see the association grow further in the future and help people with disability find financial independence and develop as individuals.