Clay families

May Mya hates to wake up at 5am.

He was born here, in a brick factory around Hpa An. Now that he is 13 years-old, he started working with his family and his best friend.

Around 30 families live and work around the clay site, where the owner instaured 9-hours working days and rolling days off. Most of them came from all over Myanmar in the hope of making good money, so the common language is burmese.

Phyo Thida Kyaw, 22 years-old, works with her baby on her laps. She and her husband don’t know how long it will take to gather the money to buy their own shop in Hpa An.

Htet Htet says she earns 1 or 2 lakhs for 6 months of work. They have to produce 530 bricks a day. Every year, the owner of the land gives 500 kyats more to every worker. The bricks are used to build monasteries, pagodas, and houses – everything !

Kyi Zaw Lwin Oo is 9 years-old and has never been to school. He is very happy to be at the factory, because he can play with his friends all day long in the clay fields. 

Chaw Su Lay likes to design clothes on her free time. She started working 3 years ago, and all the money she makes goes to her family. Before coming here, she worked in another brick factory, where kids started working much younger.

Daw Khin Pyu is one of the oldest workers of the factory. At 64 years old, she has to put bricks on the oven with her husband, who she met in the factory 35 years ago. It’s heavy but they got strong. Their daughter lives in Thailand and sent her 4 months-old son to them. He is now 18 years-old, and works with his grand parents.

During his days off and moonsoon season, her husband takes his old bicycle, goes to the market in Hpa An and sells balloons for 300 kyats a piece. They both wish their grandson would do another job in his life, an easiest one.

The owner of the land is Daw Mya Shwe, has been owning this land for 40 years. She says she asks the kids to go to school but they don’t want to, and their family makes them work once they reach 13 years-old. She owns a shop on the factory to sell snacks, food and water to the workers. She is happy to live and work here, because she can see that the workers are happy too. She loves to be surrounded with children and activity, it’s way better than the loneliness of her home in Hpa-an !

In 2013, 168 millions children were working in the world, and 85 millions in hazardous conditions, according to the ILO. It is still considered normal in Myanmar for kids to work to help their family.

Story still in progress.