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Sedge mat industry thinks global

Sedge mat industry thinks global

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090302_05.jpg

Association's recent award shows industry's capacity for empowering women in Kandal province

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Minister of Women's Affairs, Ieng Kantha Phavi, inspects sedge products Thursday. 

THE Cambodian Sedge Mats Business Association (CSMA) is looking to capitalise on the publicity stemming from a recent award to expand the global customer base for sedge mats, said Minister of Women's Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi during a ceremony Thursday marking the opening of two training centres for sedge mat weavers in Kandal province.

GTZ, a German-based enterprise promoting sustainable development, announced last December that a project promoting the production of sedge mats in Kandal province was among five recipients of its "New ideas for more employment" award.  The prize for the award, according to the GTZ website, takes the form of "professional presentation of the projects for media purposes and international publicity for them".  

The sedge mat industry currently employs an estimated 10,000 women throughout Cambodia, according to a GTZ release announcing the award. There are more than 1,000 sedge farmers and 4,000 women weavers in Kandal province alone.

Previously, sedge mat products only attracted local customers, Ing Kantha Phavi said. But in recent years, she said, sedge mats have been purchased by an increasing number of customers in other Asian countries, Europe and the United States for use in homes and offices.

The CSMA website states that the traditional method of weaving sedge mats, once common in Southeast and East Asia, "has vanished in most parts of Asia".

"In Cambodia's Kandal province, however, the technique has been preserved," the site states.

Training for rural women

In her remarks Thursday, Ing Kantha Phavi urged farmers in the area to increase sedge mat production. She also called for CSMA and GTZ to increase technical training provided to women weavers.

She said the growth of this and other industries in rural areas would reduce the number of women who migrate to Phnom Penh in search of job opportunities.

Peter Bolster, who works as part of GTZ's program to promote private-sector development in rural areas, said the innovation demonstrated by those currently working in the sedge mat industry was on par with those involved in the other winning projects, including one promoting the reintegration of unemployed Chinese women into the workforce and one promoting the socioeconomic reintegration of youth and ex-combatants in Ivory Coast.

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