Sewing Machines for Cambodia

Empowering Women to Launch Sustainable Businesses

The Challenge

Khmer women are expected to be modest, hard working, play the role of caregivers and generally ‘belong’ to the household. Far too many Cambodian girls have had their education interrupted or have no opportunity to acquire a trade or a marketable skill set. Khmer girls from poor rural families are especially at risk when many of them are given up by their parents to wealthy (often much older) men in exchange for some family benefit. In an attempt to escape this outcome, many women move to larger cities like Phnom Penh, but remain at risk of exploitation from the garment industry sweatshops, domestic servitude or other forms of social abuse. The challenge is to make these women and girls economically independent so that they may dictate the course of their own lives


The Innovation

Human and Hope Association (HHA) has implemented a training program in sewing and garment design for village women and young girls. There are three levels of training, namely, beginner, intermediate and finally expert classes, each lasting 4 months and all taught by professionals in sewing and dress making trade.  At the end of the twelve–month hands-on training, The Sumar-Lakhani Foundation (SLF) in partnership with Hope and Human Association, provides each graduate with a sewing machine to assist them in launching their own sustainable business in their home village. In keeping with SLF's principle of sustainability, the recipients are responsible for paying back the cost of the sewing machine. Payments are made in monthly installments over a period of 18 months from income earned from the home sewing business. These funds subsequently get recycled into the purchase of additional sewing machines for future graduates. Also, each former student is encouraged to deposit an additional small amount each month as personal saving.

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Long Term Impact

Graduates of the sewing class will develop small businesses by providing clothing repairs, school uniforms and even elaborate Khmer traditional wedding dresses. Other lessons imparted through this program include, book-keeping, business ethics, learning to save etc. Furthermore, the village community will be preserved by removing the incentive for Khmer women to move to big cities in search of jobs and there will be an increase in the women’s self esteem and their status in the Cambodian villages.

In Partnership with:

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