Cambodia remains the poorest ASEAN country by GNI per capita (World Bank, 2016). While its rapid economic growth saw it reach lower-middle income status in 2015, 35% of Cambodians people still live below the international poverty line measured at US$1.90 per person per day (UNDP, 2018). 40% of Cambodia’s rural population live in multi-dimensional poverty, while 45% of Cambodians living in poverty are 19 years old or younger (UNDP, 2018). Over 8.1 million Cambodians are near-poor, meaning if they lost 30 cents of income per day they will be thrust back into the poverty bracket. Also, the unequal distribution of economic gains means many Cambodians still have poor levels of health, low levels of education, skills and employment, and struggle to access essential services.
Domestic violence is also a significant issue for many Cambodian women, with 21% of women reporting they have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence (UN Women, 2015). 1 in 4 Cambodians over the age of 15 are illiterate. 36% of Cambodian children are involved in child labour. 40% of children in primary school do not progress beyond grade five. Only 35% of females at the appropriate age enrol in secondary school. With poverty and gender issues come other issues such as lack of hygiene, poor health, lack of family planning, domestic violence, poor school attendance, high school dropout rates, etc. We aim to change these statistics in our community.
These statistics do not represent the tragedy of the death of a beloved infant, which is ten times more likely to happen in Cambodia than it is in Australia. These statistics do not represent the hopelessness of a family who loses their home because of flooding and cannot afford to rebuild. The devastation of a young person who has to leave school, their best hope for a good job, because they cannot afford to continue, and thus cannot afford education for their children. The absolute horror of a young woman tricked into the sex trade after seeking a job to support her family.
Despite these heartbreaking truths about the poverty facing so many Cambodians, there is hope. Nearly all development indicators have improved over the last several decades, and continue to rise. Infant mortality, for example, has plummeted from 187 per 100,000 to 43 per 100,000. However, there is still much that can be done – for example, better education and vocational training will provide vital job opportunities and allow people to climb their way up the development ladder.
“I cannot earn much money per day because I have to stay home to take care of my young daughter and do housework. I grow vegetables, but my land is so small, so I cannot grow much. My husband sometimes says bad words to me because I could not earn money to help him, but I didn’t know what I should do as I could not go outside. I hope to work outside after I graduate sewing and my daughter is older.”
Soeurm is an amazing girl who had tried hard to keep studying until she graduated high school although her parents asked her to stop to help their work, she didn’t listen to them as she dreamt of being a teacher. She sold vegetables that she grew at home to support her studies.
After she graduated high school, she wished to apply to learn to become a Khmer teacher, but unfortunately, her parents disagreed. Again, she asked her parents to continue her study in university, but her parents rejected again with the reason that they have no money to support her studies and she had to help them earn money. She was so sad, but she had no choice and had to follow them.
Her first job was in a factory working in packaging. She then she got married to a man she worked with and had a child with him. She decided to stop working as her health was not good.
When she heard about our sewing program through our graduated sewing student, she came to us and asked to learn this skill because she thought that this is a skill that she could use to work at home and her old workplace also needed a person who has sewing skills.
After learning our beginner sewing class for three months, Soeurm took out our sewing microfinance loan so she could practice her skill at home and earn some money through fixing and making clothes for her neighbour. Her studies have been going well and she also likes our life skill lessons because it alerts her to think about her goal and future again.
“I really thank HHA who gave me this opportunity to learn sewing skill and provides me with good knowledge every Friday and also given me good advice to solve my family problem. After I graduate sewing, I will apply to work at my old workplace or I will work at a sewing shop. When I have enough money, I will set up a sewing shop at my house”.
It costs $90 a month to provide sewing training to a woman so she can move out of poverty. Become a Sewing Champion today!