Inspiring stories: Women empowerment in Cambodia

I recently joined several Facebook groups of digital nomads and female travellers, and the amount of inspiring information is fantastic. I was surprised to read about so many stories of successful women around the world and, especially, the strong network that they create through social media in which they constantly collaborate and support each other – This isn’t that common in daily and real/non-virtual life, right?
I got to know Jesi, a girl from Las Vegas who ended up living in Cambodia. Her story caught my attention because I love real examples of women empowerment which contribute to reaching a better quality of life. I want to do my small part by sharing her project and promoting stories of women supporting women.
sister project in cambodia
1- HI, JESI! CAN YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO MY READERS?
Hello! I’m Jesi and I’m a full-time artist, designer and photographer from Las Vegas. My background, over the last few years, has been centred around creative work for social change. I was an artist mentor for adults with disabilities for two years and the creative producer for a large non-profit for one. Now I’m designing a line of ethical bags called Ripplet, to provide funds for my charity project, Sisters.
2- ARE YOU BASED IN CAMBODIA? WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES OF LIVING THERE?
I am currently based in Cambodia and I travel a bit throughout South East Asia. There are many challenges in living here, some of them are hard to describe and would have to be experienced first hand to thoroughly understand. As someone who grew up in the United States, I was very used to “order” and here, even daily tasks can be chaos. It is often difficult to find the most basic things. The weather is also something to get used to, accompanied by the unclean environment and air. Lastly, I was very ill for several months due to the food -which took a while for my sensitive body to get used to. (I am fully recovered now and eating my way through my travels ha!)
cambodia sisters
3- HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA OF CREATING “SISTERS”?
I try to do charitable projects quite often -from donating my creative services to food drop-offs in impoverished places… so this was supposed to be a one-time thing. I had done a few projects for Connecting Hands Cafe, this wonderful organization that employs women who have been victims of sex-trafficking. They donate food to this specific area in Toul Kork, also referred to as, “The Brothels” by some. There is a group of women there who are sex-workers. I teamed up with them with the intention of donating feminine hygiene products… so I tagged along for one food donation. Immediately, after my visit, I knew this was something I needed to do for more women (not just this group I met). To witness their living conditions, hear their stories and compare to the easy lifestyle that myself and other Westerners live- was humbling. I also wanted to help decrease the plastic waste that is a huge issue in this country, as well as many other underdeveloped countries. So the idea for Sisters was born.
3- WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THIS PROJECT?
Sisters aims to empower women through health and knowledge. We provide eco-friendly and natural feminine hygiene products. It began as a non-profit but due to difficulties in fundraising at the moment, I decided to go the social-enterprise route. Ripplets is a line of ethical bags that will be launching in 2018. These are bags that give back and each bag sold will provide a feminine hygiene pack for women in need. The packs include natural soap (free of harmful chemicals), reusable sanitary pads and/or a menstrual cup as well as a reusable bag that the women can enjoy. We hope to be partnering with other non-profits all around the globe from India to the US and help provide these packs to those who need them most.
4- HAS THE LIFE OF THESE WOMEN CHANGED? TELL US YOUR BEST STORY!

At this moment, since we are just starting, we’ve only begun to build relationships with the women we hope to serve. It takes a while to build trust and we don’t want to be that kind of organization that drops in and disappears. I’ve joined Connecting Hands for several food drop-offs and met the women in Toul Kork. Recently, I was introduced to a woman there who learned how to sew when she was in her early twenties as a garment worker in the factories. Her husband and she are struggling to make income and support several of their children. I asked if they were in school and I was (surprised) and thrilled to learn they were. For many families in Cambodia living below income poverty level -it is nearly impossible to send their children to school. Many children go off to work and provide income for their families once they are old enough… so Sisters offered her a chance to sew our reusable bags in order to earn a bit more.

We have also had a short health lesson with some of the women, introducing the idea of menstrual cups. We were pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction. Tampons are such a new idea here and the idea of something being inserted disturbs their conservative views on virginity. Sexual education lacks here -many women don’t understand their own menstrual cycles and bodies. A few women were open to trying menstrual cups, and we hope that this will lessen some financial burden for them -since 1 cup can last up to 5 years. It will also decrease waste. It is truly disturbing how awful the pollution is here, used pads can be seen floating around on the rivers and beaches!

project sisters

5 – CAN WE TAKE PART OR CONTRIBUTE SOMEHOW TO THIS PROJECT IF WE TRAVEL TO CAMBODIA?
At the moment, anything would help. We’re looking for partners who could help provide large quantities of eco-friendly feminine hygiene products, health education pamphlets in all languages and to partner with other charities that aim to empower young girls and women all over the world. We’re also hoping to gain some followers on our pages, word of mouth and social media can go a long way and the support of like-minded women out there with strong voices to help us be heard. Once we launch our Ripplet bags, I’m confident that we can start providing more supply packs worldwide. I am also fundraising for the menstrual cups, which you can find here.
women empowerment in cambodia

What do you think?