Munawara Sultana immigrated to Buffalo from Pakistan in 2021. She is a member of the Refugee Women’s Workshop at Stitch Buffalo and also sits on the organization’s Board of Directors. Despite the steep barriers to education faced by many Pakistani women, Muna was able to receive an undergraduate degree that prepared her for her career as an entrepreneur. She is currently working to rebuild the female-led artisan business she had established in Pakistan and hopes to open her own cafe that features products made by Pakistani women. Through this, she hopes to start a local conversation of the experience of women in Pakistan.
Palwasha Basir is a trained tailor who arrived in Buffalo from Afghanistan in 2019 with her husband Abdul and three of her five children. Despite heavy restrictions at the time, the family was able to immigrate because Abdul’s career (working as a transportation supervisor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul) put his family at risk of being targeted by both the Taliban and ISIS. Palwasha and Abdul were integral to launching Stitch Buffalo’s face-mask sewing program at the start of the pandemic, providing income for dozens of refugee women whose husbands had lost their jobs during lockdown. Palwasha has continued to bring her outstanding sewing and design skills to the Refugee Women’s Workshop ever since.
Hkawng Lung came to Buffalo from Burma, and received her first ever paycheck from Stitch Buffalo at the age of 72. In an interview about her experiences, Hkawng said, “I was a refugee in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, until 2015 when I came to America, because it was still very unsafe there. I am happy here in Buffalo. I can do whatever I want here. I can work and earn money, and that makes me very happy.” Hkawng’s work in the Refugee Women’s Workshop at Stitch Buffalo includes both machine sewing and hand embroidery. She also recently trained in the use of industrial sewing machines in order to work on a special commercial production project.