Women Leaders in Cambodia
Cambodia is a Southeastern Asian country bordering Laos and Thailand with a population of over 16 million. The people of Cambodia have struggled in recovering from immense losses caused by the rule of the Khmer Rouge government from 1975-1979. Despite its challenges, Cambodia has made incredible strides in decreasing poverty rates and enhancing its economy. From 2007-2014, the percentage of the population living under the national poverty line decreased by 34.3%. Despite the country’s successes, the people of Cambodia realize they must unite and put in their best efforts to achieve national prosperity. Behind the scenes, remarkable women leaders in Cambodia are continuing their country’s fight against poverty.

Khong Sokin and Oxfam America

Rural areas in Cambodia account for the majority of populations living in the highest rates of poverty. One of these areas is near the Mekong River in Rogniev Island, where two long-time friends and neighbors are making a difference in their community. In 2019, Chris, an Oxfam America member, interviewed the two women – Tep Srey Neang and Khong Sokin. Srey Neang leads a youth group with the primary goal of promoting efficient utilization of her community’s limited natural resources. By supporting decent management of their resources, the farming and fishing industry in her neighboring areas will greatly improve. With success, Neang and her group can boost the socioeconomic status of families and the agriculture industry of the rural areas surrounding the Mekong River.

Khong Sokin has worked closely with Oxfam America, a nonprofit organization with the goal of alleviating global poverty. Together, they have aided women in Sokin’s surrounding areas by providing educational sessions on cultivation and agriculture. Sokin is aware agricultural knowledge is valuable for Cambodia’s economy and for the prosperity of their future generations. Furthermore, Oxfam and Sokin have empowered the women of their community to find their voices and to speak out, and the men are listening. Members of the community have recognized they could not fully thrive without supporting their women as well. This inclusivity has led to a female holding the position of the village assistant chief and four other female members on the community fishery committee. Srey Neang and Khong Sokin are just two fine examples of women leaders in Cambodia cultivating the future for their country.

Women-Led Organization in Battambang and Siem Reap

In the Battambang and Siem Reap provinces in Cambodia, there is a women-led organization supporting the most impoverished, vulnerable women across five rural districts. The program received support from the UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality and started in 2016. The local NGO offers valuable training sessions for women to gain skills in agricultural techniques. For example, members have learned how to use non-chemical fertilizers, raise chickens and pigs, properly grow vegetables and use other farming techniques. As of 2017, out of the 100 women that have worked with the organization, about a third increased their incomes by 50%. In addition to personal financial benefits, the organization is empowering and supporting women, which promotes Cambodia’s resources and enhances the country’s economy.

Vannary San and Lotus Silk

Expanding outside of the farming sphere, Vannary San is a Cambodian fashion designer and the founder of the company Lotus Silk. After the Khmer Rouge, the culture’s fine silk industry was almost entirely destroyed. Vannary has worked towards reintroducing and promoting Cambodia’s silk, while also supporting impoverished communities in Cambodia. In every single step of production, Vannary ensures to support the most marginalized women of Cambodia. She supports rural Cambodian silk farmers by utilizing their silk for her clothing production. Vannary is committed to employing only impoverished Cambodian women and provides benefits, accommodations, decent working hours and safe working conditions. In addition, Vannary offers internships for local college students and encourages student members of Global Children Cambodia to apply for jobs with her company. Vannary San has single-handedly revived Cambodia’s silk culture and has inspired others to become women leaders in Cambodia through her preservation and entrepreneurship.

These are only a few stories of the amazing work several women in Cambodia are accomplishing. It is important to celebrate these stories and to acknowledge that there are people quietly working in the background to help others. Cambodia has faced major turmoil and devastation, but these women provide hope and inspiration for the country’s future. Not only are they fighting poverty and improving the economy, but they are also empowering people to join women leaders in Cambodia.

– Bolorzul Dorjsuren
Photo: Flickr

Garment Industry in Bangladesh
The garment industry in Bangladesh is the number one business in the country, accounting for 80% of the country’s exports. Four out of five of the 4.4 million workers employed in the garment industry in Bangladesh are women, so one can often consider issues facing this industry to be feminist issues. Here are five facts about the garment industry in Bangladesh including how they relate to feminism.

5 Facts About the Garment Industry in Bangladesh

  1. The garment industry in Bangladesh is huge. As previously stated, the garment industry is the number one business in the country. Bangladesh is the second-largest individual country in the world for apparel manufacturing, second only to China. H&M, Target and Marks and Spencer are among the global brands that contract with garment factories in Bangladesh for clothing production.
  2. The minimum wage is not a living wage. The average garment industry worker will work for 12 hours a day and make about $95 a month. The majority of these workers are women who support several relatives and live paycheck to paycheck. According to an international aid group Oxfam, only 2% of the price of an article of clothing that a person purchases in Australia go to the worker who made it. By contrast, a top fashion industry CEO will make in four days what a Bangladeshi garment factory worker will make in a lifetime.
  3. The garment industry in Bangladesh has a history of disaster. Two garment factory disasters, one in 2012 and one in 2013, left almost 1,200 garment factory workers dead. Following these incidents, many changes occurred to improve labor regulations and safety conditions in the garment factories. Many companies contracting with these factories also stepped up, paying full wages to workers unable to return, as well as providing compensation to injured workers and families of those who had died.
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the garment industry in Bangladesh hard. Millions of workers are unemployed due to the global pandemic. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer’s Export Association (BGMEA) reported that 1,025 factories experienced cancellations of export orders totaling 864.17 million items worth $2.81 billion. The BGMEA president also reported a 50% decrease in orders and does not expect the sales to bounce back for at least another year. Although Bangladeshi law requires employers to pay severance, few actually do. There are no unemployment benefits in Bangladesh. Many displaced garment workers fear that they will die of starvation if they do not die of COVID-19 first.
  5. Pre-existing shortcomings of the Bangladeshi garment industry are being highlighted. Longstanding issues of the industry include a lack of unity among the 16 trade unions, political pressure by industry owners and big brands, loopholes in the country’s labor laws and a disconnect between a practical living wage and the legal minimum wage. After most factories shut down because of COVID-19, the Bangladeshi government issued a $600 million bailout for all manufacturing industries in Bangladesh. The garment sector received the majority of this, but the amount barely covered about a month’s salary for all the workers in the garment industry.

Despite the seemingly dire state of the garment industry in Bangladesh in the face of constant poverty coupled with a global pandemic, some are making many efforts and are continuing to implement them in order to better the industry. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has launched many efforts to better the garment industry in Bangladesh since the disasters of 2012 and 2013. One of these efforts is called the Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) program which offers career progression opportunities for female sewing operators. They receive training in the soft and technical skills necessary for them to assume supervisory positions. The program also trains managers on how to select, promote and support female workers in the industry. Since the launch of this program, IFC has trained over 140 female sewing operators in 28 factories, 60% of whom received promotion weeks after completing the training. Remake, a nonprofit in San Francisco that aims to make the global fashion industry more humane and environmentally sustainable, has launched another effort. Recently, Remake has pressured big brands to pay back contractors in Bangladesh for whatever they ordered before the pandemic. Of these brands, 16 have already agreed to do so.

Caroline Warrick-Schkolnik
Photo: Flickr

South_SudanThe Republic of South Sudan is the newest country in the world, founded in 2011 following a secession from Sudan. The secession resulted from years of bloody civil war in Sudan. However, as recently as 2013, there was a new wave of conflict in South Sudan, with more than two million people displaced from their homes in the past two years. With this conflict, people are unable to maintain agriculture or other jobs, and food prices are rising. The poverty as a result of this conflict is leaving people malnourished and without access to food or clean water. Thankfully, some organizations are coming up with initiatives to improve the lives of the South Sudanese.

Organizations and governments initiated different forms of help for the situation in South Sudan. Some of the main strategies have been promoting peace, increasing access to food and sanitation, and encouraging foreign investment.

Oxfam America, a nonprofit organization aiming to “fix the injustice of poverty,” has initiatives to combat multiple issues caused by poverty and conflict: improve access to clean water, food and sanitation, and promote peace. Some of the response includes rebuilding wells and sanitation facilities for hospitals. In order to further people’s self-sustainability, Oxfam also gives materials to help communities get food, such as seeds and fishing equipment. For Oxfam, initiatives to fix issues caused by poverty is the focus, while for others, the encouragement of international investment is the way to help South Sudan.

South Sudan has mineral deposits and oil reserves. The South Sudanese government is encouraging foreign investors to invest in this sector of the economy. They formed the Investment Protection Act of South Sudan in 2011 to protect the land and intellectual property rights of national and foreign investors.

The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, or ACCORD, is a South African organization aiming to relieve conflict in Africa. ACCORD has a South Sudan Initiative, or SSI, which focuses on building and maintaining peace between Sudan and South Sudan, as well as among the South Sudanese citizens. Some of the conflict identification and resolution efforts include “coordinating the efforts to develop a standardized conflict management training toolkit,” and “providing conflict management, mediation, and negotiation trainings for South Sudanese, officials, diplomats” and “United Nations Mission in South Sudan civil affairs officers.”

Some see bolstering the economy as the solution that will better the lives of those in South Sudan, some view access to sanitation and food as the place to start, and some believe peacebuilding techniques will help end the conflict and give way to a healthier, more efficient society. While separately, these initiatives may not combat every issue that exists within the complicated and historical conflict in South Sudan, with all of these initiatives acting simultaneously, a better future for the South Sudanese seems possible.

Rachelle Kredentser

Sources: Accord 1, Accord 2, About, Oxfam America, Oxfam America 2, Goss-Online
Photo: Flickr

International Good Books Gives Retail Profit to OxfamThe tangible gift of a book gives the intangible gift of learning. When one gives The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird, a young person learns about race relations in the United States. Or maybe a child’s imagination can expand through classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia. What if you could give that gift to a loved one and at the same time help the education of someone in poverty?

It’s possible through the Auckland, New Zealand based company, Good Books. Just by shopping for books on their website, one can directly help the world’s poor through an automatic donation to Oxfam New Zealand, a partner of the general Oxfam family.

This is possible through a business plan by Good Books, which includes several partners that can donate their time or services to make the operation have zero operating costs.

For example, all the workers directly associated with Good Books are unpaid. The organization’s book distributor, Paperback Shop UK, handles the actual moving of the merchandise and supplies the website and management services. Also, the organization is able to build the company’s brand through media support and customers spreading the word.

But this specific labor is for a great cause since all retail profits are sent to Oxfam, an organization that works on many fronts trying to end global poverty.

Oxfam’s work is varied; the Oxfam America website specifically says the following about their work which is indicative of the organization’s work as a whole:

“No one should go hungry.”

“We all have the right to clean water.”

“All people deserve to live safely.”

“Women and girls are crucial to reducing poverty.”

“We all deserve the opportunity to earn a decent living.”

“People have a right to participate in decisions that affect their lives.”

“We must help poor communities cope with climate change.”

“Poverty is not inevitable.”

“People have the power to end poverty.”

While the purchase/donation cannot be earmarked through the Good Books’ website, purchasing the books matches well with the statements, “women and girls are crucial to reducing poverty,” and “we all deserve the opportunity to earn a decent living.” Both of those ideas hinge on education for the masses to move people out of poverty.

Oxfam New Zealand says that “every extra year a girl spends in school could reduce child mortality by ten percent.” So, much of their good work is built around education initiatives to help the community.

Oxfam and their partners have helped rebuild schools in Pakistan, get clean water for students in Nairobi, teach about women’s rights in Guatemala, and even giving goats to families in Ethiopia where the selling of offspring and goods provides money to send daughters of poor families to school.

By buying books from Good Books, consumers can use their purchasing power to help all the areas listed above. Specifically though, one can use their money to directly aid the fight against poverty while also reading a book that can change the mental attitudes for those in developed countries. Awareness and change concerning poverty can be worked on in two very distinct ways through the purchase of books.

Megan Ivy

Sources: Good Books, Oxfam America, Oxfam New Zealand
Photo: Oxfaminternation

holiday gifts
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are projected to spend over $600 billion on holiday gifts during the 2014 season alone. A staggering statistic when compared to the fact that an estimated $40 billion would be necessary to provide clean water and sanitation, reproductive health for women and basic education, health and nutrition to every person living in a developing country worldwide.

Fortunately, many nonprofits, online marketplaces and charitable organizations are doing something to help redirect some of the money that Americans spend each holiday season to those who need it most. If you’re in the market for a gift that does double-duty this year, check out the following stores and nonprofit organizations for ample meaningful gift ideas:

1. Heifer International:

Give the gift of an animal in your friend or family’s name and help provide a family in a developing country with both food and a reliable source of income. Heifer International

2. Books for Africa:

Honor a friend or family with a book donation through Books for Africa (BFA), a non-profit dedicated to increasing literacy rates and children’s access to books in Africa. For donations of $50 or more, BFA will send a hand-written thank-you note to your honoree. $50 provides 100 books for a classroom. Books for Africa

3. Oxfam America Unwrapped:

Browse an endless array of gifts online—from goats and honeybees, to books and school meal programs for kids—and give to a family or child in need on behalf of a friend or family member. In return, a free, personalized card will be sent to the ‘gift-giver,’ along with a photo of the gift and information about how specifically it makes a difference in the lives of people living in poverty. Oxfam America Unwrapped

4. JADEtribe:

100 percent natural and ethical, JADEtribe’s bags, clothing and accessories truly embody the phrase “fashion with a conscience.” Each piece is handcrafted by women in South East Asia, and proceeds from JADEtribe purchases directly improve the lives of the female artisans who contribute to the company’s extensive selection. JADEtribe

5. Global Goods Partners:

Artisans living in third-world countries have an opportunity to sell their beautiful handmade goods on this online marketplace. Purchase a gift from this site, and a high percentage of sales will go directly back to the artisan who made it. Global Goods Partners

6. Ten Thousand Villages:

A fair-trade retailer since 1946, Ten Thousand Villages has stores across the United States, and an extensive collection of jewelry, clothing, kitchen and household items, and home décor, among many other gift ideas. The store partners with artisans around the world, in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Cambodia and Peru, among dozens of other countries. Its mission: sustain livelihoods, empower women, preserve cultural arts, and build global relationships. Ten Thousand Villages for online purchases or to find a store near you.

7. The Little Market:

Lauren Conrad’s e-commerce site, which is filled with vibrant, handmade goods, was created to serve as a platform for female artisans living in third-world countries worldwide to reach a wider audience. The proceeds for items such as jewelry, clothing, bags and ceramics go directly back to the women who made them. The Little Market

8. Bead for Life:

Bead for Life was founded to empower women in Uganda by helping them start their own bead-making businesses. The Beading Program provides women in impoverished countries with a steady source of income, derived from handcrafted beaded jewelry. Invite friends and family to shop for the cause by hosting a Beading Party from your home; a customized inventory of jewelry will be sent directly to your doorstep beforehand. Or order beads online. Bead for Life

Whether you’re giving a life-changing gift of an animal to a family in need, or wrapping a selection of handmade bags, scarves and jewelry that will help support the livelihood and businesses of female artisans worldwide, choosing a gift from the above list automatically makes you an ally in the fight against global poverty. Why not send a feel-good present or two this year, when it’s guaranteed to touch the friend or family member you’re choosing to honor, and to alter the lives of the person, family or community on its receiving end?

– Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: The Borgen Project, Info Wars
Photo: Nugget Market

Oxfam AmericaFounded in 1970, Oxfam America works with people in more than 90 countries to create effective and lasting solutions to end poverty and campaign for social change. Here are 8 things you should know about the organization.

1. Oxfam America works on a global level to reduce poverty, hunger and injustice.

Oxfam America operates on the belief that poverty is wrong. They work on long-term solutions that address the underlying causes of poverty, and campaign for social change. Current Oxfam America projects include GROW, a movement that aims to build a better and more sustainable food system, and Aid Reform, which works to increase the U.S. government’s commitment to poverty-reducing foreign aid.

2. They are trustworthy.

Oxfam America is highly rated by several independent charity evaluators. The American Institute of Philanthropy and Charity Navigator have both given the organization high ratings.

3. They partner with local and national organizations.

Oxfam America aims to help local partners become self-sufficient by building alliances, networks and effective organizations. They create reciprocal relationships, learn about solutions to poverty from their partners, and providing them with funding and collaboration opportunities. Oxfam America works with their partners to provide communities with finance options, disaster and conflict relief, food security, and safe water sources, among many other things. Along with 17 other organizations, Oxfam America is united in the global effort to fight poverty; they work with 3,000 local partners in more than 90 countries and invest more than $1.1 billion annually to poverty-related causes.

4. They act on the belief that fighting poverty is about fighting injustice.

Oxfam America holds the strong belief that poverty usually arises from the violation of people’s basic rights. Acting on this belief, Oxfam America promotes the idea that knowledge is power. By educating individuals on their basic human rights, the organization helps create communities that keep their governments and government officials in check. Accountable governments change the systems that keep people trapped in poverty.

5. The projects they fund are community-driven.

By using solutions that are unique to the location and context of the problem, Oxfam America is developing the most sustainable and appropriate methods to combat global poverty.

6. Poverty puts people in harm’s way.

Oxfam America believes that poverty leaves people and communities in vulnerable conditions. They believe that poverty forces people to live in dangerous areas or build unstable houses in areas prone to natural disasters. Oxfam reports that the impacts of climate change will result in unprecedented pressure on global food prices, which will be a huge burden on the world’s poorest people who already have to spend up to 75% of their income on food.

7. They believe that laws, policies, and institutions have an enormous impact on poverty.

Much like the Borgen Project, Oxfam America works with decision-makers to encourage them to respect the views of the poor communities and to implement foreign aid programs that will be most effective in reducing poverty. By opening dialogues with the people who are directly affected by poverty, Oxfam America is giving a voice to those who need one the most.

8. Everyone can join in with Oxfam’s effort to fight against poverty and injustice.

Oxfam America believes that everyone has a part to play in the fight against poverty; by encouraging individuals to work together, the organization aims to raise awareness and inspire action on the world’s most urgent issues.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: Oxfam America, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

Fight Global Poverty on Less than a Dollar A Day

Fighting global poverty might seem like an overly-lofty goal, something left to the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, or at the very least, the government.  But the truth is that just about anyone can become an effective contributor to the fight against global poverty.  Wealth, age, and ability have little to do with it.  There is something for everyone to do.  To show how true that is, here is a list of ways you can fight global poverty on less than a dollar a day.

1. Call or e-mail your Senators and Representatives and tell them you want increased government investment on global anti-poverty measures. Find their contact information here on The Borgen Project site.  All you have to do is call, say you live in their jurisdiction, and ask them to support global anti-poverty legislation.  It is a simple and 30-second call that makes your representatives pay attention. Learn more about calling Congress by watching this video.

2. Get friends to call too. This increases your impact exponentially.  If representatives receive as few as 7 calls in a week about the same issue, they and their staffers pay attention to that issue when they review call logs.   More calls equal greater likelihood that the senator or congressperson will see the issue as important to their constituents.

3. Use your social media presence to help spread the word about poverty statistics, effects, and most importantly, solutions.  A Facebook post alone is unlikely to bring a poor person in Brazil any closer to clean water (see our article on “slacktivism” here), but then again, it just might (see another point of view here). Many people won’t know and won’t act until and unless somebody tells them.  That somebody could be you—on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever you use. Never underestimate the power of information and advocacy.

4. Turn your talent, hobby, or passion into a one-person fundraiser for an anti-poverty group.  Do you knit, tutor, paint, or make jewelry? Why not sell your creation or service and advertise that you’ll be donating proceeds to an anti-poverty organization?  Do you run marathons? Why not recruit sponsors to turn your next race into a fundraiser?  You supply the time and talent, and your donors will supply the cash—and probably learn a bit more about the issue as well.  There are dozens of worthy organizations out there. (The Borgen Project could certainly be one of them.)

5. Go hungry.  The group Oxfam America helps all kinds of groups organize events they call Hunger Banquets.  Attendees can pay to attend the banquet at which different kinds of meals are served to randomly assigned groups.  Some meals are extravagant (the kind of meal most people in the US have eaten).  Some are barely enough to sustain life (the kind of meal many people in the world survive on).  In addition to raising money, these events help bring awareness of food insecurity in a very vivid and immediate way.  Read about one such banquet at the University of Central Missouri here.  Find out more about organizing a hunger banquet at

There they are:  Five relatively inexpensive ways for you and those around you to join the fight against global poverty.

– Délice Williams

Sources: The Borgen Project, Oxfam America
Photo: Social Media and Politics