Since early 2015, Bang Noeuy, 22 – whose left leg was paralyzed by polio when was three – can earn an average of 6,000 riel [US $1.5] a day from her growing hairdressing business. It might not sound like a lot, but it significantly changes the lives of her family and the perception of the rice farming dependent residents in Vong village, northeastern Ratanak Kiri province.
“I feel I am helpful to my family now. My family depends on rice cultivation to survive. Our rice paddies are very far from home. Because of my leg I could not help my parents much, as I could not walk far distances. I felt very helpless,” said Noeuy.
Today she is the only person in the family of ten who can earn a regular income and this means she can make a financial contribution to her household. According to Noeuy, this makes her feel like a new person.
Since launching her hairdressing business, Noeuy has built a new grocery shop and provides hair dressing services both at her shop and in her customer’s homes during cultural celebrations.
Her 50-year-old father, Kavet Bang, who constructed the shop for her daughter by himself says, “Before, I was worried who would take care of her when my wife and I pass away. Now she has a skill she can depend on in the future.”
Noeuy hopes that her business will spare her youngest brother, 10 years old, from a life spent working on their family farm. Her income will help to keep him in school and show him that there are opportunities to become self-employed.
Nouey studied hairdressing as part of Plan International’s Life Skills programme that is being implemented in partnership with the Provincial Training Center (PTC) and Krousar Yoeung organisation.
Since mid-2014 over 140 youths from two of the most impoverished districts in Ratanak Kiri have studied hair dressing, poultry farming, agricultural techniques, mechanics and tailoring. Each student attended an average four month center-based training course and completed a two month internship.
“In addition to the core skills, the youth received training on basic literacy, customer relation and financial management,” says Kim Phearak from PTC.
Tham Noy studied mechanics and is now owns his own motorbike repair shop at just twenty years old.
“I can make at least 10,000 riel [US $2.5] per day as there is only one motorbike repair shop in my community. I am building a new shop and buying more spare parts. I hope I can sell drinks in this shop with my wife soon,” Noy said.
Noy and his wife dropped out of school when they were young and this makes it difficult to monitor his finances. “I regret leaving school. But I will attend more village literacy class to improve my writing and reading,” adds Noy.
For youth in Ratanak Kiri province, there are few employment opportunities outside of farming. Noeuy and Noy are showing their communities that training can lead to financial benefits that can out-weigh what their peers are earning from rice cultivation.
Youth in rural Cambodia are vulnerable to accepting false migration opportunities – they can be promised well-paying jobs and instead become victims of exploitation once they leave their homes. Keeping youth with their families means that young people stay safe and their income can be directly used to assist their families.
“We target at the most impoverished families, families with disabilities, dropouts, and the like. Selected youth decide the life skill they want to pursue and we counsel them about the market of the skill to ensure the skills attained are profitable for them,” explains Sor Sreynav of partner organisation Krousar Yoeung.
Deputy Village Chief Teng Vean, 30, is optimistic that these training opportunities will bring about positive impacts in her community. “We have about 79 families in our village. Almost all of them depend on rice farming and collecting fruits and vegetable from the forest," she said.
"The Life Skills programme has created new income generation means. The youth who received this training can stay and work in the village. This means they don’t have to relocate to their farms for months during the farming season, usually from June to December. Some of their young siblings can stay home with them and continue to go to school. And when they have money, they can improve their sanitation and health. And I see this logics through my life here,” Vean said.
As their businesses have grown, Noeuy and Noy have encouraged other youth in their communities to learn new skills and open their own businesses.