The Artisans: Silk & Up-Cycled
Talis works with three producer groups in Cambodia. Each have in common a fair trade social mission. They are all members of Artisans Association of Cambodia, which is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization https://wfto.com/
Talis pays its artisans and crafts people fairly and equitably for their skillful work. The tailors are paid more than double the average wage of garment factory workers in Cambodia, and are ultimately provided with a working environment that is safe, supportive and upholds strict labour standards. The artisans are generally individuals who suffered the consequences of the Khmer Rouge regime, have been rescued from the garment factory industry, are disabled, or come from backgrounds where poverty has limited their opportunities. Many are home-based, and/or community-based single mothers, allowing them to raise their children while earning an income for themselves and their families - livelihoods rooted in dignity, as opposed to charity.
Our unique range of silk products includes scarves, purses, wallets, waistlet pouches, jewellery rolls etc. Our fun and vibrant up-cycled products are made from material originally used as cement, rice, or feed bags throughout Southeast Asia. They are lightweight, water resistant, and extremely durable.
When Kong was 12, her friend, who she was playing with, stepped on a landmine. Kong’s friend died instantly and Kong was badly injured (the part of the shell from the bomb hit her leg which had to be amputated). Coming from a background of poverty, her injury gave her the opportunity for training. At 18, she started vocational training as a tailor in the Maryknoll Skill Training Program at Wat Than, where she also received help with her prosthesis. Kong’s talent was quickly recognized: she started working for the National Centre for Disabled Persons in Phnom Penh, where she assisted people with disabilities in Skill Training and finding employment. In the meantime, Kong also started her elementary business as a seamstress at home after her working hours to improve her income, by supplying her finished silk accessories to craft shops in Phnom Penh. Apart from training other disadvantaged people, such as landmine survivors or people with polio, and enabling them to work from their home with their families, Kong also became a dedicated ambassador for Cambodian landmine survivors. She would go to many different conferences in Cambodia and other countries to raise people’s awareness to the landmine problem in Cambodia, for example, in 1997 she met with Princess Diana at a conference in Washington to discuss the ban of landmines.
In 2004, Kong opened her first retail business and became a member of Artisans Association of Cambodia (AAC) in December of that same year. Cambodhi Silks and Talis shared all of their marketing materials with Kong (write-ups, professional photos, product information) and helped her write the pamphlet describing her capacity, which enabled Kong to attract clients from USA, UK, Japan, France and Germany. At the moment Kong has 2 retail stores and employs 15 full-time and 25 part-time employees in Phnom Penh. She has also generated the work for people in the weaving communities and currently has 5 producer groups who work from home with 3 to 5 producers per house. Kong and her husband Sam, are constantly growing their business and creating more job opportunities – at present they are building a new 2-storey workshop.
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia is among the highest in Asia with 15% of the population being affected. The good news is there has been a rapid decline in new cases due to a concerted effort by over 80 organizations, working to reverse the spread of HIV and to provide support to people living with HIV including orphans and vulnerable children.
Sor Sokhorn is a single mother of 9, living with HIV since 2000 when she was 42. Thanks to Kong’s growing business, she was able to support her family, while working from home. Now most of her children are over the age of 18, some are already married and helping in the family home-based business. Sokhorn’s silk creations are beautiful and well-known in her community of Russey Keo near Phnom Penh.