When Khamoom cooks a traditional Mon dish at the Pao Mon restaurant in Myanmar, she’s doing so much more than feeding hungry guests.
With each meal she serves, she’s preserving her Indigenous culture, she’s earning her own income, and she’s becoming a leader and entrepreneur.
Khamoom is one of five women who work at this unique restaurant, run by the Mon Women’s Organization. Cuso International is sending Canadian volunteers to work with this organization and help women like Khamoom break through barriers to equality, opportunity, safety and independence.
Mikaila Ross is one of these volunteers. As a veteran cooking school teacher in Toronto, she decided to spend six months sharing her expertise with Khamoom and her fellow chefs at Pao Mon. As they boiled pots of rice noodles and served steaming bowls of Mohinga soup, they bonded and learned from one another. Mikaila helped the women develop a marketing and business plan, while the women showed Mikaila how to cook with street-side herbs and plants, and how to prepare five dishes at once with only one burner.
“These women inspire me with their drive, positivity and resilience,” Mikaila said.
Mikaila and other Cuso International volunteers have helped the women at Pao Mon restaurant hone their skills in team work, management, planning, accounting, and customer service. The more they learn in each of these areas, the more they can build their confidence and improve their lives.
In Mon State, it is rare for Indigenous women like Khamoom to run their own enterprise and be financially independent. After all, many women from remote, rural villages never learn to read or write. Their illiteracy and lack of opportunity forces them to work on farms, plantations, and take on the domestic responsibilities in their homes. They may also be victims of gender-based violence—sexual assault cases are higher in Mon State than anywhere else in the country.
The Pao Mon restaurant is just one of Mon Women’s Organization’s initiatives that empower women to stand up for their rights, learn new skills, and realize their potential to become successful employees and entrepreneurs.
Now that Khamoom is a chef, she knows she has what it takes to run her own business. She can support her family, and give her children a brighter future.
Please consider donating today to help send more volunteers like Mikaila where they are needed most to make a real difference.