Thailand: Helping rebuild lives and restore livelihoods in the Deep South
For nine years, violence has devastated Thailand’s Deep South, killing and injuring thousands of people. To help local families affected by these difficult circumstances, the ICRC is assisting them to rebuild their lives.
Harrina is a young mother to a sweet little four-year-old girl called Nur. The little girl was only two months old when her father was sent to prison, forcing her mother to become the breadwinner. “I didn’t know what to do, with my baby, with no money, and my husband in jail,” says Harrina, hiding her tears behind her veil as she remembers her life at that time. “I had never even worked before.”
Many families in the Deep South have personal, often tragic stories of how they were affected by acts of violence. Farida, another woman from the region, still remembers the day she was passing by a teashop when four men pulled up alongside her and opened fire. Without warning, her life changed. “It all happened so fast, the explosion, people running and screaming and this incredible burning in my arm.”
The attack killed four people and injured nine others, Farida among them. Her wound never healed properly, meaning she couldn’t continue making sweets to sell on the market. This was her family’s main source of income.
“Sadly, it is often women and children who pay the price of the violence,” explains Mark Kessler, who is in charge of ICRC activities in the Pattani area. “We are helping people who have lost their livelihoods to get back on their feet again.”
Harrina and Farida are both beneficiaries of income-generation projects launched by the ICRC in the Pattani region. “The projects benefit families whose breadwinners are in detention, or who were wounded or killed in the violence,” explains Mr. Kessler. “They also benefit some former detainees who need to rebuild their lives.” The aim is to enable families to develop a sustainable source of income, taking into account their interests and background.
The ICRC helped Farida and her husband set up a fruit plantation, while Harrina was offered training in sewing and embroidery and now owns her own boutique. Thanks to their tenacity and talent, both projects have blossomed.
The ICRC has 65 such projects in Thailand’s Deep South, the majority run by women. The projects range from sewing workshops, to bakeries and house construction. “The emphasis is on building people’s resilience, skills and ultimately income, not on handing out aid. With commitment and hard work, people like Harinna and Farida have managed to get their lives back on track,” say Mr. Kessler.
Harinna is proud of where she is now, even as the memory of her difficult journey lingers. “Now I visit my husband in prison once a week and I can take care of my daughter all by myself. We are fine,” she says.