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tv   Asia Insight  PBS  April 29, 2015 6:30pm-7:01pm PDT

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♪ ♪ >> a village in northern cambodia. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> the women taking this evening class are here after a hard day's work. they're learning how to read and write. in rural cambodia, young girls have to help out with household chores and farm work. attending school is not a priority. many women never even finish primary school, and these students are using second-year level text books. [ speaking foreign language ] >> during the day, female employees weave silk. this workshop was founded in 2002, to help women break the
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chains of poverty and make them financially independent. every stage of production, from dyeing to weaving is done by hand. chanta runs the workshop. after fleeing from combodia during the civil war, chanta lived for 20 years in vietnamese and thai refugee camps. she returned after the conflict settled down in the early 1990s. she was shocked to find women living in extremely harsh conditions. some had no choice but to turn to prostitution. many contracted aids and perished. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> chanta decided to start a project to educate local women, while teaching them traditional cambodian silk weaving skills. products created in the workshop are sold at home and overseas, providing the women with cash income. [ speaking foreign language ] >> in this episode of "asia insight," we take a look at how cambodian women involved in the weaving of silk are expanding their horizons. ♪
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stueng treng province in the north of cam bodio stretches across both sides of the river. the population is around 100,000, and most people work in farming and fishing. it's one of the country's poorest regions, with 1 in 3 people living on less than a dollar a day. the village in the middle of the province is home to this silk weaving workshop. a dormitory housing workers is situated in the center of the grounds. 30 women are employed here, with 20 living on the premises.
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they pay no rent and receive free meals. they come from all over the province. the workshop prioritizes women who are facing financial and domestic difficulties. ka hongna is 19 years old. having arrived four months ago, she's still new to the workshop. she's currently learning how to weave. there are 20 looms here, and this is where the silk cloth is
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woven. hongna and her husband divorced when she was three months' pregnant. after giving birth to her son, she heard about the workshop on the radio, and decided to apply. her instructor is an older worker with ten years of experience. [ speaking foreign language ] >> to produce this basic fabric, the horizontal webbed threads are woven into 1,400 vertical warp threads.
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[ speaking foreign language ] >> six months of basic training is enough to master the fundamentals, after which new recruits can start helping to weave products. [ speaking foreign language ] >> with increased experience, it becomes possible to produce more sophisticated weaves. this is ma mum's seventh year
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here. she's making a traditional jasmine pattern scarf. jasmine is a symbol of peace and good luck. [ speaking foreign language ] >> a pattern is produced by operating many wooden rods. for this patterned fabric, more than 2,000 threads must be set. the preparation can take up to eight weeks. it takes a further five days to complete the weaving. mum moved on to patterned fabrics, during her fourth year at the workshop. she finds satisfaction in the complexity of the work.
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how much a woman earns depends on her skill, and the number of textiles she weaves. a skilled worker can earn more than $100 a month, twice the average salary in regional cambodia. ♪ fine cambodian silks have a proud history of more than 1,000 years. sophisticated techniques have existed since the days of the comer empire. although the workshop respects long-standing traditions, it also produces colors and designs with the overseas market in mind. in 2005, unesco awarded the workshop this seal of excellence for handy craft products in southeast asia. this scarf incorporates
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traditional gold and silk way deep red border. the brand is called mekong blue. blue is a symbol of sincerity and hope in cambodia. the brand's founder is chanta. she set up the workshop in 2002 with assistance from overseas ngos. [ speaking foreign language ] >> changta was born in 1961 in the nest of the country. when she was 11, she and her family were forced to leave their homeland. in 1970, a civil war broke out
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in cambodia. many fled to neighboring countries. chanta and her family escaped to a town in southern vietnam where one of her mother's relatives took them in. ♪ ♪ >> ten years later when her mother died, chanta moved to a refugee camp in thailand. there she learned english from a volunteer group, and also gained experience as a nurse. ♪ ♪ >> in 1993, after the signing of the paris peace accords, she returned home for the first time in 20 years, to assist the ngo doctors without borders in their activities within the country.
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upon her return, she discovered many women struggling to survive. turning to prostitution, some fell victim to aids. [ speaking foreign language ] >> over time, she came to realize that many shared the same problem. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> chanta believed that providing women with an education and work would create a solution. it was then that she came up with the idea of setting up a silk weaving workshop. weaving is a traditional craft, historically carried out by women. having been away from the country for so long, it gave chanta a sense of nostalgia. she gathered a group of women and opened a workshop, inviting experts to teach them traditional skills. the looms were donated by an overseas ngo. and the women began to weave by hand. and after seeking new recruits, mainly from rural areas, the initial team of six women grew
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year by year. [ speaking foreign language ] >> chanta's workshop not only trains the women on how to weave, it also teaches them to read and write. on weekdays, after their working day is over, a teacher from a local primary school, instructs them for 90 minutes. the first half of the lesson is dedicated to the comer language.
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using a primary school level textbook, they learn basic reading and writing skills. there are eight women in today's class, all missed out on a basic education because they had to help their families at home or on the farm. hongna joined the workshop four months ago. [ speaking foreign language ] >> the second half of the lesson concentrates on math. on this day, they're learning how to multiply and divide.
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[ speaking foreign language ] >> the women will continue to study for around a year. hongna's studies have proved useful in her work. math helps, because dimensions have to be measured and calculated to make sure the work is accurate. reading helps the women learn more advanced techniques. these are the specifications for a scarf. the instructions regarding the appropriate dimensions and color of the thread are detailed.
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hongna hopes that one day she'll be able to manage this kind of work on her own. as a trainee, hongna receives $30 a month. once she's qualified, she'll be able to earn a much larger income. hongna comes from a farming village 50 kilometers away. today she's visiting her family home for the first time in a month. there's no water or electricity here. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> hongna's parents grow rice and kas afa. with the $10 they earn a month, they take care of hongna's three younger sisters. [ speaking foreign language ] >> the family eats frogs that hongna's father has caught for the evening meal. hongna decided to move to the workshop, because she didn't want to burden her parents after her divorce. her mother says that she was worried about letting her daughter live away from home, because her grandson is still so
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young. [ speaking foreign language ] [ speaking foreign language ] >> hongna hopes to provide her son with a better environment than the one she herself grew up in. the mekong blue brand is becoming more widely known, and during the dry season, when
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tourism to cambodia peaks, tourists arrive nearly every day. today some tourists from the uk are visiting. >> would you like to have a look around? >> most definitely. >> we start in 2001, so 14 years ago, we started with literacy to empower women. it's a national program to empower women, but i put myself in their shoes after one year of literacy, how can i find a job? so i created vocational training. >> oh. >> chanta takes the visitors on a tour of the facility. she's eager to show them how mekong blue's products are made and how much pride the women take in their work.
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>> we have 250 colors. this is a new color she created right now. this is for -- i went to paris this year. so this is the new color and new design, i sold it at the exhibition. >> and how many hours a day will she be weaving here? [ speaking foreign language ] >> so working hour is about seven hours. but some of them, they can come to work at night. we have lights, and they can sleep here. >> this is where completed fabrics are inspected. the visitors are impressed by
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the scarf designs. >> gorgeous. like scottish material, like tartan. do you know about tartan. >> it's a pattern of stripss. >> right. >> oh, right. >> like a scottish cloth. >> sure, so that's a very special, traditional -- >> yes, yes, yes. >> it's beautiful. yes, absolutely stunning, yes. really lovely material. the women are very skilled, and the amount of work that goes into each piece is a lot, many, many hours of work for that. >> nine years ago, chanta set up a chop alongside the workshop to respond to the increasing number of tourists. the visitors buy some ties,
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scarves and purses for a total of $250. >> thank you very much. it's lovely. thank you. wow, they are beautiful, and i want to support the ladies who work here, and also, we will use these as christmas presents back home. and in our christian tradition, christmas gifts are a lovely thing to buy. and we are wanting to give christmas gifts that make people think about other people's needs. so we will give them this as well as the gift. >> chanta is also using the internet to try and promote the mekong blue range of products. today she's sending a message to an ngo in japan that sells her
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products, and who is organizing an event. >> hi. if you want to support us, we would like to have also the quality, yes, to help us to improve. >> with the assistance of overseas ngos and privacy sector corporations, chanta is working to expand the brand's sales channels. currently the products are marketed in france, the u.s., canada, australia, and japan. annual sales revenue totals around $100,000. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> 29-year-old keo sar un has been working at workshop for 12 years. a diligent weaver, she's become team leader, checking the overall quality of the work and advising the less experienced women. after her long years of service, she's become an invaluable worker to chanta. [ speaking foreign language ] >> sar un grew up in a nearby
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village. when she heard of a workshop offering vocational training, she was eager to join. even the one hour bicycle ride to work didn't deter her. and over time, she honed her skills. although her initial salary was $10 a month, she now earns $110. in 2008, sar un married a local carpenter she met here. the couple have two children. her family now lives just five minutes away from the workshop. their house is made from reinforced concrete. a rarity in this area. it costs them $6,000 to build the house and half of the money s funded by sar un's savings from her salary. they've also bought some
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electrical appliances, including a televisio and a ventilator. ♪ ♪ >> from her humble bennings, sar un has come a long way. [ speaking foreign language ] >> through the production of cambodian silk, these women have found a way to empower themselves. weaving a brighter future with their own hands. ♪ ♪ [ laughter ]
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hello and thank you for joining us on this edition of "newsline." i'm raja pradhan with the latest at this hour le. japan's prime minister delivered his speech to u.s. congressional lawmakers in washington. shinzo abe is the first japanese leader to address a joint meeting in congress. he emphasized the significance of the close japan-u.s. alliance. >> we must make the vast seas stretching from the pacific to the indian oceans seas of peace and freedom. we will all follow r


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