Going hand-in-hand: Improved livelihood and child empowerment
About ten kilometres from Phnom Penh, a group of ten women aged between 20 and 55 years old sit on the tiled floor of a wooden house. Their hands are busy rolling pieces of paper, braiding plastic bags, cutting paper, needling rings of beer cans, and pinning and clipping the products into plastic bags with happy faces. Hundreds of beautiful earrings, bracelets, necklaces, key chains, bags, purses and glass mats are around them. These products come from recycled materials and the creativity of the mother’s group.
“We are 13 women. We are Self-Help Group mothers,” says Saven Vong, 49, team leader of the group called Self Help Group Mothers. She is married with one son and two daughters.
As she and her husband did not have enough income to support the children, Saven’s oldest son, Sithy, worked as a construction worker. “I used to make my son work in construction while he was still growing. I realised that it was wrong. He was only 14 years old. Please imagine a small skinny boy carrying 50 kg of cement and going up to the second or third floor. That is too heavy,” says Saven and shakes her head.
After World Vision was introduced to her community in 2007, Saven and her community members attended many activities such as a child protection network meeting and a self-help group meeting. They gained knowledge of how to improve their living condition without migrating.
Sithy is now 23 years old. He finished studying at a university of business management and is working as an administration worker. Sitting at a round table with his mother he says: “At that time, I wanted to attend an English language course, and I tried to earn money to join the course.”
At first, Saven’s neighbours did not value handicraft activities. Later on, her neighbours came and learnt from Saven how to make the products.
“In a month, on average, we are able to earn about US$300 from selling the products. The products are sent to eight shops in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. We share our profits according to the number of products that members produced.”
Moreover, the members’ saving group can use their loans for children schooling, equipment and other needs. The interest is only 1% per month. World Vision encourages the women to continue and to take community ownership of the group.
“We are focusing mainly on improving the livelihoods of vulnerable families because it is the source of sustaining, child well-being impact. Next year, World Vision will work to promote more new business groups,” says Sopheap Siv, Area Development Programme Manager.