We love featuring women supporting women here! Today’s post is from Monika Nowaczyk, founder of Cambodia Knits. Read more about her story and the amazing women she helps empower in Cambodia with home-based work for fair pay.
Cambodia Knits is a social enterprise producing fun, handmade products. I founded CK because I believe women are the key to raising their families out of poverty if given the opportunity. And often in Cambodia, because of their backgrounds, the women we work with do not have many opportunities for generating a fair income. Some lack skills or education, others live in relocation sites far from the city center where there are few jobs, and still others have children or elderly family at home they need to look after. All of them want to be able to contribute financially towards their family incomes and to provide for their children.
I first came to Cambodia in 2000 for 18-months and then returned again in 2006 and never left again. By 2009, after many years working in the NGO sector, on various education and civil society projects I saw there was a need for creating economic opportunities for the women in relocation sites as they were often the most negatively impacted. These women and their families had been forcibly evicted from their inner city homes to make way for development. Communities were displaced and often destroyed. The sites where people were transported to often lacked basic amenities, schools, health services and very importantly, jobs. Today we work with over 60 women in several different communities in and near Phnom Penh and provide support in addition to a fair income such as emergency health support, eye care, low- interest loans for emergencies and soft skills training on topics such as personal financial management so our producers can make the most of their incomes.
Two years ago I had my first child and she, like many babies, was not a natural sleeper. I became that exhausted new mom who first read and tried everything and then decided that her child was too unique to apply any methods to. Exhausted doesn’t quite capture the full extent of what I was. There should be another word that is superlative to exhausted. I fell asleep in public. I wrote emails with every third or fourth word missing. I forgot my cat’s name. I forgot we had a dog when we went out for a walk once. I came to understand how sleep deprivation could be used as a torture technique. In fact, I would have admitted to any crime presented to me, if doing so would grant me even just three hours of sleep. I’d admit to being the mastermind if those three hours were in a row.
Sometime in the midst of this I had the thought that a toy with eyes embroidered to make it look asleep could be a useful tool in my sleep time battles with my baby. I might have even for a moment had the deluded idea this could be a game-changer for the world of sleep deprived parents, which is ridiculous because such products already exist. I knew the toy would not actually get her to sleep, but I crocheted it anyway. My child did not sleep better, but I had a cute, cuddly bunny that I thought could be a great addition to the Cambodia Knits range.
Together with our in-house knitters, we created four more animals and called the collection the Sleepy Snoogus. On June 1st we’re starting a crowdfunding campaign to help us launch this new line of critters.
Because so many of the women who work for us are also mothers, every Snoogus sold will also directly contribute to an education fund for their children. CK aims to make the world a better place, one stitch at a time, and from one mother’s struggle to get her baby to sleep, we hope to expand our business, provide more women with employment and support them in sending their children to school.