KeoK'jay (bright green or fresh in Khmer) is a fair trade social enterprise that provides jobs for women with HIV in Phnom Penh, Cambodia through the production of handcrafted clothing. First, we provide a fair livelihood to all of our constituents, enabling them to care for their dependents, which usually means that their children, who often were not in school before and in some cases were working, can go to school, breaking the cycle of poverty in the future. Second, we work with a partner non-profit hospital that provides health care for all our staff. Counselors from the hospital advise us on how to meet their health needs. We make sure they have adequate time off to take care of their health. And thirdly, we provide a safe space and education for these women. Having dignified employment brings back self-respect that may have been lost from years of begging, sex-work, or dependency. The spread of HIV is directly related to the inequitable treatment of women, so economic empowerment and community support give women other options besides relying on families who have abused them, and strengthen women to break away from devastating situations before and after abuse. This immediately serves our direct constituents; for example, facilitating shared housing arrangements for young women who have been sold by their parents into sex work, or building the confidence of those who have been rejected by their communities because of HIV. But, on a larger level, we are creating a culture that such abuses are no longer acceptable. Working side-by-side and talking about their life experiences, which include everything from genocide to rape, provides a source of therapeutic support. Within a supportive environment and not having to worry about where their next meal will come from, they can stand up against injustice in their own lives and inspire others to do the same.
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