Fixing nails, fixing lives

Fixing nails, fixing lives

090828_7d12b
Trainee Lisa Son (left) gets tips from store manager Sousan Ouk.

THE Senhoa Nail Spa Centre, due to open in downtown Siem Reap early in September, is the front for a groovy all-female-run Washington-based NGO, Voice.

Voice’s cool New Age overtones are revealed in its full de-acronymised title, Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment, and its aim in Siem Reap is to give mostly Vietnamese sex industry workers a shot at a new life, with new skills and newly-raised consciousnesses.

Research shows that a significant portion of sex workers in Cambodia are Vietnamese, and this ethnic grouping is estimated to represent 30 percent of Cambodia’s total number of commercial sex providers.

The gals who run Voice, ethnic Vietnamese from California, Washington and Sydney, are hip, switched on operators who certainly establish an affinity with the girls they are hoping to empower.

Voice informally began in 1997 as a small legal aid office in Manila, having been spun out of what was formerly the Representative Office of the Vietnamese Community in Australia.

The mission in the Philippines was to help the 2,500 stateless Vietnamese refugees in that country.

Voice’s official statement says it strives to achieve its mission “through community empowerment programmes. We have full-time staff based in Washington, DC
and abroad to advocate and give voice to our mission. In the US capital and abroad, we knock on doors of elected representatives and follow up. On the field, our outreach projects and awareness campaigns provide legal and social assistance to those who cannot speak for themselves.”

In 2007, Voice expanded beyond refugee protection to aiding and advocating for vulnerable women and children in Cambodia, and in March-April this year conducted a pilot programme for the Senhoa Nail Spa operation in Siem Reap.

Most of the young Vietnamese women recruited for the pilot programme are now part of the Senhoa training course, but not all the girls in the programme are sex workers.

Senhoa in Vietnamese means lotus flower, and some girls who join the Voice initiative will be taught the nail and manicure business.

Voice also teaches girls how to make high-end jewellery and its first collection, Papillon, is on sale in mostly high-end boutiques, with the legendary Vietnamese singer, Nhu Quynh, having signed on to be the “face” of the collection.

But the girls who are taught how to make high-quality women’s accessories also have to partake in a life skills programme in which English and Khmer language courses are mandatory, as well as a good dose of consciousness raising.

MOST VIEWED

  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment

  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said

  • CPP: ‘Behave or Sokha suffers’

    The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman warned Kem Monovithya on Thursday that her attempt to damage “national reputation and prestige” would lead to her father, Kem Sokha, receiving even harsher punishment. Sok Eysan issued the warning as Monovithya, who is the court dissolved

  • Preah Sihanouk beach developments halted

    After receiving an order from Hun Sen, Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara led a team of experts and relevant officials to Sihanoukville to call a halt to the illegal development of a beach. The prime minister ordered the Prek Treng beach in Otres commune