|Sewing up a brighter future in Cambodia|
|Friday, 08 June 2012 11:04|
Katak Samat is about to embark on an unusual adventure for an 18 year old from a remote part of Cambodia.
The third child in a family of nine children, she has lived in Kress village in the north-eastern province of Ratanakiri all her life, but soon she will be on a six-month training programme learning to sew in the capital, Phnom Penh.
You might wonder why this is unusual — at 18 years old most young adults are setting off for college or looking for their first job. In rural Cambodia however, women traditionally look after the family and the home. Some do work, but often informally with a low, irregular income. Because of this they have little access to organised markets, credit and training institutions and to other public services. (UN)
Huge inequality exists between men and women. More than half the population are women, yet they do not share half of the wealth, resources or ‘voice’ according to the United Nations.
You might think there would be a large tourist market for products such as beautifully made purses, scarves and books, but villagers say tourists just want to photograph a traditional village. That’s why CAN-DO helps weavers in Kress village sell their products in a shop in a different area. They also helped them establish a co-operative to act like a village bank when members face unexpected costs.
Samat smiles as she says: “I’m happy to be going to Phnom Penh to learn to sew and have the chance of getting a job - I’m excited to learn.”
Like the majority of people in her village, Samat is from the Kreung indigenous group. The Kreung people have their own language and Samat is one of few women in her village who can read and write Khmer, Cambodia’s national language.
While Samat is training, CAN-DO are building a craft centre in her village where she will work when she returns. They will also provide a sewing machine.
Her view, even for an 18 year-old, is quite revolutionary as the issue of under-representation affects Cambodian women profoundly. One shocking statistic around gender equality is that 49% of Cambodians aged 15–19 think a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances. (UNICEF 2002–2010)
Along with CAN-DO, Cord believes that strengthening women within families and communities has a positive impact on equality and rights issues on a national scale.
Cord has supported CAN-DO since 2008 when they asked for assistance in developing their first strategic plan. Sambath, one of Cord’s advisors now visits CAN-DO monthly to continue mentoring them to help them manage their projects and finances effectively. With Cord’s help CAN-DO have improved the quality of their work and have moved forward with their project goals. They are also part of the ‘Community of Practice’ group that Cord set up, which brings representatives from several Cambodian organisations together to discuss human rights issues and the best way to address them, supporting Cord’s belief that local people know best.