If you love ethical shopping and you love fair trade then leave some space in your bag for your visit to Phnom Penh.
Cambodia’s capital is an energetic, fast moving city full of tuk-tuks, motorbikes, food stalls and construction on every corner. This bustling place has an adverse feel to the backward life of rural Cambodia but has so much to offer. You can get lost walking down all the different streets, finding interesting little eateries and shops or just find a nice café to sit and people-watch all the locals that make their living here in the biggest city of Cambodia.
Many people have set up here in order to create a better life for themselves. You can find a variety of shops that sell goods to assist those who have been affected by the recent impoverished times that the country has gone through. Many of these shops sell a range of fair trade goods with profits going back the people who make them, reversing the cycle of poverty and providing an income for people from all areas around the country.
Spend a day walking around the city, admiring the chaos and shopping through the range of fair trade products on offer. Here is a guide detailing some of the shops that you can find.
Kuan Duon Penh area (Riverside)
Artisandesigner are a chain of shops that sell handicrafts and wooden products made from locally sourced materials. You can find anything from handmade purses to colourful dresses and woven scarves, made from pure Cambodian silk by people throughout the country. The shop supports the organisation Watthan Artisans Cambodia [WAC] by selling a range of products made from artisans with disabilities, who are trained in handicraft production. They also support home-based workers nationwide and provide them with annual contracts to ensure they can have comfortable financial stability and a better livelihood.
Mekong Quilts is an incorporation of Mekong+, a social enterprise creating sustainable employment for under-privileged women in remote and rural regions of Vietnam and Cambodia. The organisation employs over 340 women from various communities and the profits made from your purchase go directly towards community development initiatives such as scholarships and health programs. Shop through the range of hand crafted silk and cotton quilts and accessories they have available.
Ta Prohm Souvenir Shop
The owner of Ta Prohm Souvenir Shop, Mrs Chim, is a Cambodian landmine survivor. After her accident she started vocational training as a tailor and then moved on to train other people with disabilities in silk design and creation. Over the years the shop has employed 30 vulnerable people from the area and given them the opportunity to work. They pride themselves on their unique silk fashion accessories and homewares, and they also ship internationally.
Happy Silk’s aim is to provide jobs to people with disabilities and support home-based workers and weavers working with the Women for Women foundation. The foundation was established as a way to promote the social empowerment and community economic development of women in Cambodia. You can pick up a range of silk products, jewellery and accessories made by the women of Cambodia, for the women of Cambodia.
Yodicraft products are made in association with Yodifee, the Youth with Disabilities Foundation for Education and Employment. The foundation aims to provide assistance and empowerment to young Cambodians with physical disabilities. The shop sells a range of handmade crafts such as jewellery, accessories and clothing. They also have a range of environmentally sustainable products, such as handbags and pencil cases, made from recycled rice bags, a creative initiative that helps both the environment and the people.
The Friends’N’Stuff shop is an extension to the Friends Restaurant in Phnom Penh. The famous NGO Friends International, a large social enterprise in Cambodia that provides assistance to marginalised youth and their families, runs the restaurant and shop, and uses the profits to fund many of their community projects. The products sold in Friends’N’Stuff are made by the parents of children in need and you can pick up a range of unique handmade products including bags, clothes and jewellery
Khan Chamkar Mon area (Downtown nearby Tuol Sleng)
Cambodia Handicraft Association (CHA)
The Cambodia Handicraft Association provides opportunities to Cambodian women who have been affected by landmine accidents or polio. They run a training program where the women can learn skills in handicrafts, tailoring, weaving and running a small business, so that they can use these trades as way to make a sustainable living for themselves and their communities. Towards the back of the shop you can see the trainees working away creating beautiful Cambodian silk garments and handicrafts. They greet you with a smile and you can even have a chat with them while you’re browsing through the shop. All the profits from the shop go towards the costs of running the program and providing many opportunities for the ladies here at CHA.
Rajana provides training opportunities, in the production and marketing of contemporary craft, for underprovided Cambodian people. They partner with over 100 rural based families and ensure that they can work from home while also providing for their families. Rajana has grown into a large organisation and have some of the best quality collections of Cambodian handcrafts. In the shop you will also find a range or products sold from other NGO’s such as Watopot, an orphanage that looks after 45 Cambodian children, some of which have been affected by HIV and AIDS. You can pick up some jewellery made by the children through their Creative Empowerment Jewellery Project, an initiative that provides them with joy through the art of creativity.
Peace Handicrafts/Y.E.K Design
Peace Handicrafts is another social enterprise that provides training and employment opportunities to landmine victims, disabled people and the deaf. They sell a range of products made from local hand-woven silks and recycled materials such as recycled rice bags, nets and recycled paper. This environmentally conscious organisation also exports their products internationally while supporting the local people of Cambodia. You can read some of the staff stories here.
The manufacturing industry around the world is responsible for a lot of human exploitation. By choosing to shop fair trade when you travel you can stop this practice and start to create a better life for the people behind the products you buy.
If you’re a fair trade shop in Phnom Penh please get in contact and I will feature you in this post. Let’s spread the fair trade love.
Do you know of any other fair trade shops in Phnom Penh? Leave your comments in the section below.
Not in Phnom Penh? Oxfam have a range of fair trade goods available on their online shop.