A Safe Place for Cambodian Women to Work in a Supportive Environment, While Developing Skills for a Better Future.
The Banteay Srey Project is a women’s vocational training centre, which operates a shelter as well as a women-only training spa in Kampot. Young women choose to come to the centre through outreach work Banteay Srey Project personally conducts in Cambodia.
A Safe Place
Trainees are offered clean comfortable housing free of charge at a supervised residence a few meters down the road from the spa. The spa and the trainee residence are each located in Khmer countryside homes. These old wooden homes have been renovated and furnished to make them beautifully suited for their purposes. A daily nutritious lunch is prepared at the spa also free of charge for the trainees. Banteay Srey Project pays all Medical and dental costs for staff and trainees. Newly arriving trainees are given adequate clothing and a one month supply of basic toiletries.
Trainees are responsible for all other expenses such as clothing, toiletries, utility bills, and groceries. Trainees generally come from subsistence farming communities and the concept of money for household bills and daily food is alien to them. A supervised residence gives them an opportunity to learn household economic management. Ongoing personal budgeting support is offered as well as nutrition and food hygiene classes.
Work in a Supportive Environment
In Cambodia a garment factory worker typically is paid $80 per month. Both living and working conditions for factory workers are overcrowded, unsafe, and toxic. Factory work offers no respite and no hope for the future. Many young factory workers turn to employment in the “entertainment sector” as a more hopeful opportunity. Although jobs as hostesses, beer girls, and sex workers offer less grueling work there is also sexual harassment, societal stigmatization, and great risk of violence in the vast entertainment sectors of Cambodia. Many Cambodian employers do not respect the country’s labour laws and both factory and entertainment sector workers have been subject to violent and deadly attacks when they have organized protests to demand workers rights.
Kampot is a quiet town located in Southern Cambodia and is a popular destination for tourists. The Banteay Srey Project has established a women’s health spa on the Tranquil Kampot river front with a complete offering of yoga classes, food and beverage, massage, and spa services. The spa offers an ideal opportunity for Khmer girls coming from difficult circumstances to work in a peaceful, restorative environment.
Trainees at the spa are paid $60 per month for an 8hr work day. They receive paid holidays and sick days according to Cambodian Employment Laws. When a trainee is accomplished enough to begin serving spa guests she will also receive a commission of as much as %15 on her treatments. Any tips earned are given immediately to the trainees as very positive reinforcement of their caring service to customers.
The Banteay Srey Women’s Spa is dedicated to offering a range of quality services, while providing young women with an opportunity to gain business experience and learn valuable job skills.
The Banteay Srey Project strives to be self supporting through income generated by the women’s vocational spa. The Banteay Srey Project currently relies on donors’ contributions to offset establishment operating expenses as well as program expansion.
Skills for a Better Future
At the Banteay Srey Project, the trainees receive classes and instruction in:
- Life skills
- Spa skills
- Customer service
- Yoga and meditation
- English language
- Basic computer and internet use
- Khmer literacy
The training is primarily done through Banteay Srey’s own video curriculum. The video training format makes it possible for trainees to enter into the program at any time and very efficiently learn at their own pace. The young women are quickly ready to begin working in the vocational spa while constantly developing new skills through ongoing training . The spa operates as a business, which allows the girls to earn a wage while gaining valuable job skills.
In order to best address these pressures the young women are supported to transition from the centre when they are ready. The Project provides job placements at high end spas or financial backing and mentoring for small business collectives. There is a high demand for spa practitioners in Cambodia as foreigners are eager to avail themselves of this affordable luxury.
The average income in Cambodia is not nearly a living wage at $1.00 per day. A typical charge for one massage in a tourist establishment is $10 making spas a very lucrative small business for Cambodian women. Groups of trainees who have successfully completed the Project’s program will be encouraged to open their own businesses under the Banteay Srey Project’s name, reputation and mentorship.