Sustainable toys

International Women’s Day 2022: Celebrating Cambodian Women

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” and here at Beebee+Bongo we want to honour, and credit, the incredible women that make our products through our production partners in Cambodia. We carefully choose who we work with and seek out partners who share our values and ethics, whether that be in terms of inclusion, fair production practices or women’s empowerment—and preferably all three.

Traditionally and culturally, women in Cambodia have been, and continue to be, disadvantaged. Illiteracy rates are higher for women than for men, with a reported 1 in 4 women over the age of 15 being illiterate[1]. Girls have a much lower chance of completing their schooling beyond the primary level, with only 1 in 3 completing high school[2]. Additionally, women carry the burden of childcare and housework. With limited skills, education and time, paired with few opportunities, women find it difficult to earn income towards their family needs. 

There is also the continued prevalence of a 300+ year old poem, the Chbab Srey, roughly translated as Rules for Girls, that is often passed down orally from mother to daughter, describing rules of “good” or “proper” women and generally promotes subservience, modesty and obedience. Still taught in schools, the poem promotes archaic gender roles for women, encouraging them to be quiet, gentle and focus on housework.

Women's Day
The village crochet team of Cambodia Knits

Yet, the women we have come to know through our brand partners are very much the opposite: they are strong, powerful and resilient. They are fiercely committed to their families and their communities and given opportunities, they strive to improve their situation and that of their family, breaking gender stereotypes along the way.

Our key production partner is Cambodia Knits (CK), a company that oversees a network of knitters and crocheters who produce our high-quality toys. CK was launched with the goal to provide women with income through flexible and fair economic opportunities which acknowledge the traditional, cultural, and societal constraints they face, and provides work that can be done at home, on their schedule. CK fully supports their producers through training and the provision of all materials. This means that the women who produce for CK, take no risks (other than their time) to learn the skills and make the products.

The drawstring bags that our educational toy line is packaged in are made by the Cambodian Women’s Support Group, another female led organization that acts as an independent sewing cooperative. Kanary, who leads the group, is another example of the strength and resilience of Cambodian women. After the sewers lost their main source of income in 2015, when the NGO they worked for shut down, she took on the challenge to find new clients and secure work for the rest of the team. She continues to lead with enthusiasm and determination to provide opportunities for her small team.

These partners are on the ground in Cambodia, led by women who live in the communities, so they know best what women in their networks need, how to support them and can do so within the constraints women face and the legal frameworks in the country.

International Women's Day 2022
The sewing team of Cambodian Women’s Support Group

We are proud to be able to partner with ethical and fair production organizations like these two, and to support them through the purchase and sales of their high-quality products, which in turn enables them to provide more economic opportunities. By supporting women to have access to jobs, these organizations are directly supporting this year’s theme of “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.”

We don’t believe Cambodian women need to “be empowered” by outsiders like us. Rather they need the opportunities to thrive.  And so, on this Women’s International Day, we, Beebee+Bongo, recommit ourselves to the following:

  • Fair Trade Principle 6: Gender equality is promoted and ensures that women are given opportunities, full employment rights and full statutory employment benefits and receive equal pay for equal work
  • Sustainable Development Goal 5: Girls and women everywhere have equal rights and opportunities.

[1] World Bank, https://data.worldbank.org/

[2] World Bank, https://data.worldbank.org/