Hepzabeth Evans and Sonia Lyne have just spent six hours sitting in the dust with twenty women from a tiny Cambodian village, surrounded by chickens, cats and piglets.
And the two Australian small business women are elated.
“I just need to sit with it all for a bit,” says Sonia, through tears.
The pair have travelled to Cambodia to teach rural women skills to help them start a craft business from home. In return, the local women taught Hepzabeth and Sonia their own trade – basket-weaving.
One of those local women, Sangsaveth, has been basket-weaving since she was ten. Today, she makes her living working on a construction site mixing cement and carrying bricks, as well as weaving baskets as part of a cooperative established by Plan International Australia. She’s was eager to learn what she can from Hepzabeth and Sonia. “I want to learn more skills, so I can find another way to earn income,” she explains.
But the local women aren’t just here to learn – they’re keen to teach too. “I’m very happy and excited to teach them how to weave baskets in the proper Cambodian style,” says Sangsaveth.
Hepzabeth and Sonia’s journey to rural Cambodia began in October 2015 when online craft marketplace Etsy called on Australian sellers to raise money for Plan’s Because I Am A Girl campaign. By the end of 2015, Etsy and Plan’s Make for Good campaign had raised $30,000, enough to provide grants to more than 200 women to start their own micro-businesses.
As part of the campaign, Hepzabeth made a dedicated range of her boutique soaps with delicate silver leaf, and Sonia used her signature tiny embroidery hoops to make necklaces featuring silver-lined clouds (see below for more products made by the talented pair). Both were chosen to travel to Cambodia to share their craft skills with local women, who might in turn use those new skills to start their own business.