Changing lives through
OUR VOCATIONAL TRAINING
Economic opportunities in Stung Treng are extremely limited. Education is a low priority, especially for girls, who are often expected to stay home and help with the housework, then start families very young. And to live by old code of the Chbab Srey—the Rules for Women—and depend on men to survive.
That’s why so many Stung Treng women live on the edge of catastrophe: Few have any education or skills to fall back on, and no way to pull themselves out of poverty.
During the early days of SWDC, Stung Treng women who apply for our six-month vocational training say they want more choices. More skills and knowledge. More control over their own lives. A strategy for supporting themselves and living independently. They don’t want to leave their families to work in distant garment factories; they opt for a livelihood that keeps them closer to home.
Some of the women from our programs have gone on to start their own businesses in the village, and even in other provinces.
During COVID-19, we had to shift our focus. Silk weaving was not a viable way of generating income in Cambodia anymore. In 2019, we set up a clinic at our center to provide support for women experiencing depression and various other mental health issues.
We quickly learned that many of these mental health problems were a product of poverty and destitutions, which can cause the women to fall even deeper into poverty, a vicious cycle of mental illness and impoverishment. The women needed a way to support themselves and their family. So, in addition to mental health support, we also provide the women with funding to start and support their own small businesses.
Armed with the funding, our women launch their future. They now own small food vendors in their village, a vegetable and fruits stalls in the Stung Treng market or even a recycling business. They can support their children and retake control of their mental health.
SWDC has become a vital part of the life of Sre Po village. Since 2002, more than 700 women and 1,500 children have been members of our little silk-weaving community as workers, trainees, and schoolchildren. And many hundreds more have benefited indirectly, as their families’ and neighbors’ fortunes rise through improved health, education, and livelihood.
Mekong blue silk
Although our silk weaving center has been closed, we have a small number of silk scarves available for purchase through our online store.
Our products were hand-woven and dyed in Cambodian traditional techniques using 100% natural silk and the highest quality non-toxic German dyes. From dyeing, spinning, and washing of the silk to the weaving, and finishing of the scarves, each process is conducted by hand. As testament to the skill involved, our products have received three UNESCO Awards of Excellence for Handicraft Products in Southeast Asia. All products were made by the women of SWDC and all proceeds go to support our various remaining projects.