Words by Nora Anwar for PWB
Due to a century of colonization and high taxes, as well as the civil war and mass genocide that took place during the Khmer Rouge reign, Cambodia remains the second poorest Southeast Asian nation in terms of GDP per capita.
In recent years, Cambodia has been increasingly impacted by globalization. With the rise of the garment industry, factories are producing cheap goods and paying cheap wages, meaning many traditional Cambodian crafts, like silk-weaving, are dying. Artisans have been forced to close their practice and switch jobs as the demand continues to decrease.
NGOs like the the Green Gecko Project are working to improve chances of upward mobility by providing long-term health, education and training initiatives to street children and their families.
Green Gecko has also recently undertaken five new umbrella projects including the Women’s Village, a secure and violence-free home for women who have experienced gender-based violence, and the Humanitarian Youth Group, where former street kids can give back to their community.
One of their more creative projects is Rehash Trash, a sustainable solution that turns trash into treasure. “It is a women’s empowerment, skills-training, recycling and environmental clean-up initiative all in one, on a mission of recycling rubbish and renewing lives,” said Kate Allen, the social enterprise manager at Green Grecko.
Sarem is 49 years old, a mother of four, and participates in the Rehash Trash program. By partnering with Green Gecko, she now has a new skill and a job that she loves.
Started in 2015, Rehash Trash provides hands-on skills training and a safe work environment for mothers that helps restore confidence while also recycling approximately 5000 plastic bags a week.
“Rehash Trash has helped me with a great job so that I can support my family. I’ve learned so much here - I know how to recycle rubbish and make it into products we can sell. I am so happy when I come to work,” said Saram.