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Silk training centre weaves an opportunity for rural women

A recent graduate of the Maybank Silk-Weaving Training Centre demonstrates silk weaving strokes yesterday after the graduation ceremony in Takeo province.
A recent graduate of the Maybank Silk-Weaving Training Centre demonstrates silk weaving strokes yesterday after the graduation ceremony in Takeo province. Heng Chivoan

Silk training centre weaves an opportunity for rural women

The Maybank Silk-Weaving Training Centre held its second graduation ceremony yesterday in Takeo province, with 25 female weavers who completed the free training programme moving on to join Color Silk, a social enterprise that supports women engaged in home-based silk production.

The centre, established in March 2016, provides training in silk production, dyeing and weaving for rural Cambodian women. It has also employed local farming families to plant 20,000 mulberry trees for the centre’s silkworms to feed on.

Maybank, Malaysia’s largest bank by assets, has invested between $180,000 and $200,000 into the training centre, according to Shahril Azuar Jimin, CEO of the bank’s corporate social responsibility arm, who said the target was “to empower women and help them to be financially independent”.

The pilot project aims to train 150 women in traditional silk-weaving techniques over a three-year investment timeline, with the trainees joining the Color Silk programme upon graduation.

According to Jimin, 50 women have already completed the six-month training programme, with the first batch of graduates earning an average monthly income of $160 to $200 from their home-based silk-weaving businesses. The products of their looms are purchased and marketed by Color Silk, which currently includes about 450 members and produces approximately 1,200 metres of silk – or about 360 scarves – a month.

Jimin explained that the scarves are primarily destined for the European and Japanese markets. However, he added that Maybank plans to list the products on its online shopping portal MayBank2u, giving Cambodian silk products the opportunity to expand in the region.

“The next phase [of Maybank’s support for the Color Silk programme] is going to be online payment,” he said. “Maybank2u is an online portal with over 10 million users, and the next phase for us is to put the silk for sale online.”

Hun Sophal, who joined Color Silk after graduating from the training centre six months ago, said that by working five hours a day at her loom, she has been able to buy a house with the income she earned.

“Color Silk buys back all of the silk I produce,” she explained.

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