What we’ve learned from our market research assessment
During the last few weeks, we finally carried out our market research project by interviewing four different target groups; 1) residents undertaking vocational skills training courses at three shelters, 2) government and non-governmental vocational skills training centres for women, 3) local small to medium sized businesswomen and 4) international NGOs that implement vocational skills training courses and income-generating programmes for women.
We have uncovered a wealth of information and at the moment, are still trying to develop an action plan for the reintegration component of AFESIP. The action plan will provide recommendations on whether to expand or improve the training curriculum at AFESIP’s shelters (or both) and if yes, what courses should be implemented or act as a supplement to the existing courses; hairdressing and sewing.
What do the residents say?
About 150 women were interviewed based on a series of questions and a list of 21 training options were given to them in the forms of pictures (see photo above). They were asked to choose 3 training courses which they would like to take if they are each given more options than the current ones .
Our questionnaire revealed that majority (more than 70%) of the residents at the shelter will return to their families in the village after they complete their vocational skills training courses. While majority of them are happy with the current two training courses, an overwhelming number would like to have some form of computer lessons and if they are given more options, many would like to choose agriculture (particularly fish-raising), cooking, running small businesses, tourism and traditional dancing courses.
Surprisingly (or rather unsurprisingly), none of these women chose housekeeping as an alternative course. We are uncertain as to whether the reason was because most of the women do not feel that they need to be trained on domestic science or that they do not want to pursue a career as a domestic helper.
What we learned from the government and non-governmental vocational training centres for disadvantaged women
We visited several training centres in Phnom Penh, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu and Siem Reap. It was interesting that all the centres provide the same courses; hairdressing and sewing. Some offer silk weaving and food processing as well. It’s easy to understand why training options are limited to these and but at the same time, difficult to imagine that such homogenous career paths can help the women to become more competitive in the market. In the end, it feels as if all the women will become either a hairdresser, tailor or garment factory workers.
One of the main reasons that hairdressing, sewing and silk weaving trainings are such popular options is because majority of these women have very low education level. These training courses do not need much literacy skills and at the same time, there is a high and consistent demand for hairdressing and tailoring services in a country where weddings and cultural ceremonies are part and parcel of community living all over the country. Cambodia is also a country which depends heavily on its garment industry where big labels like Gap, Banana Republic, Abercrombie and Finch, etc. are being outsourced here. Nevertheless, there has always been a fear that these labels may not stay for long in Cambodia once economic trade agreements change and other less developing countries begin to provide cheaper labour.
The other thing we learned is that in order for these centres to be sustainable, it needs to form network and partnership with international organizations, governmental agencies, financial institutions and business associations. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), Ministry of Labour and Vocational Trainings (MoLVT), International Labour Organization (ILO), UNDP, Asian Development Bank (ADB), JICA and World Bank are the key partners in programmes like this.
- to be continued -