Social Enterprises Changing Women’s Lives

For the past 5 months we’ve been cycling around South East Asia meeting social enterprises and charities that aim to improve the lives of women in this region.

As it’s International Women’s Day we wanted to shed some light on the amazing work that these social enterprises and individuals are doing in an area of the world where gender inequality is rife.

Coins for Change is a social enterprise run by women that promotes social justice and equal rights for women in Vietnam. In one of its programmes it provides support to single mothers in Vietnam. Being a single mother in Vietnam is seen as socially unacceptable, and would usually lead to isolation from society. This social enterprise works directly with single mothers to help them develop skills for the workplace and to challenge society’s view of single mothers.

Viet Trang is a handicraft manufacturer in Thanh Hoa Province (Vietnam) which specialises in making products from natural fibres. Their mission is to empower disadvantaged groups, including local women, protect natural resources and preserve traditional craftsmanship through the creation of sustainable, natural handicraft products.

A worker at Viet Trang using traditional handcraft techniques

Kymviet produces handicrafts, exclusively employing women with disabilities in their workshop in Vietnam. It was set up with the aim of creating jobs for people who would otherwise struggle to find work. Having a job helps to improve their quality of life and integrate into society. They won the British Council Social Enterprise Inclusivity Award in recognition of their work.

The workers of Kymviet

Saoban is a social enterprise that works with traditional handicraft artisans to preserve and promote Lao village crafts, create employment opportunities for villagers (mostly women) and reduce poverty.

Some of the products created by Saoban workers

Thavry Thon is the author of the newly published book, ‘A Proper Woman’. It’s a fantastic read, providing an invaluable insight into Cambodian society, specifically from a woman’s perspective.

Thavry Thon (left) holds her recently published book ‘A Proper Woman’ when she met with Katie from Gearing Up (right)

Thavry’s story, and the story of her family, encapsulates the power of education. Despite her rural upbringing, with the support of her parents she has been able to challenge the traditional values and beliefs of Cambodian society. Her parents fervently believed that both their sons and daughter should receive an education even though they were stigmatised by others in their village for not sending their children to the garment factories to earn money for the family.

We’ll leave you with Thavry’s powerful words:

“True gender equality in Cambodia is still a long way off, but it is also an inalienable human right that women be valued equal to men. As a woman born and raised in an unequal society…I want to speak out for the countless women who feel they have no voice. I want to inspire and encourage them to believe in their dreams and be who they want to be, regardless of the expectations of other people.”

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