A loan of $725 helped a member buy sewing machines.


Circle Cambodia Sewing Cooperative Group's story

Five single women in their early 20's recently formed a new sewing cooperative called Circle Cambodia, creating a new chapter in life and a fresh start. These women work together and live together in Phnom Penh, and their bond of friendship runs deep, as they have overcome incredibe adversity together.

All of these women come from difficult family backgrounds, namely large single parent families. One of the women was orphaned at an early age and another suffered from abuse. With the assistance of a counter-human trafficking NGO, the women left their families in the rural provinces and moved to Phnom Penh to attend vocational training school. This NGO provides alternative livelihood options for children deemed to be at high risk of trafficking due to vulnerable family situations. Once sewing school was complete, the five women of Circle Cambodia found employment with a woman who ran a small tailor shop out of her home. This woman did provide housing, but unfortunately she made some poor financial decisions and became heavily indebted, and within a short time she started withholding salaries from her employees, using the money to pay down her own debt instead. Without having another place to live, the women of Circle Cambodia were trapped in an exploitative working and living situation. One year later a tailor shop customer found out about the injustice of the working conditions, and she facilitated a way out for the women, provided them with a new place to live and a promise of future business once the women were able to buy their own sewing machines.

Phany, one of the youngest women in the group, has the most sewing experience. She has been sewing since 2003 and is an accomplished seamstress. She excels at cutting patterns - a skill she is teaching the other group members who started sewing in 2007. Phany's cheerful personality, friendly demeanor and quite confidence seems to be a unifying force in the group. Phany grew up in Kompong Cham province of Cambodia. Her father died when she was young, which resulted in great financial hardship for the family as Phany's mother tried to support her 10 children. Prior to coming to Phnom Penh, Phany was working in the fields, picking beans, for a wage of $0.75 a day. Phany enjoys sewing, and her outlook on the future of Circle Cambodia is bright.

Each member of the Circle Cambodia co-operative requested a loan of $145 to be used for the purchase of a sewing machine. The disbursal meeting was filled with excitement, and the women already had plans for an afternoon trip to the market to shop for machines. Circle Cambodia has secured initial orders and they look forward to expanding their business to include Cambodian customers and possibly even foreign customers through an online global marketplace. The women take English lessons for one hour each day, and the women are teaching an illiterate member of the group how to read in the Khmer language. The Circle Cambodia co-operative dreams that one day their business will be successful enough for them to start training new employees who come from similar vulnerable backgrounds.

About SIGU:
This loan is the first made by AMK's Special Interest Group Unit (SIGU). As part of the Product Development department, SIGU was developed as an initiative to further reflect AMK’s mission, and to serve more ‘vulnerable’ groups that are currently underserved by microfinance services. These groups include women who are victims of trafficking, domestic violence and other gender-based traumas, people living with HIV/AIDS, street people and children and people with disabilities. AMK is currently focusing on assisting women who are victims of trafficking, domestic violence and other gender-based traumas. Current SIGU projects include developing microfinance specific financial literacy training and creating a pilot credit program specific to this population.

In this group: Phany, Sokhey, Ngith, Phally, Thavy



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