International Women’s Day is something that has definitely gained visibility and momentum in recent years here in the United States. It’s funny because it’s a day that has been celebrated longer and more consistently in many other countries across the globe. For years we have gotten the cutest messages from our partners and friends in Cambodia wishing us a “Happy Women’s Day!”
This year’s theme is #choosetochallenge. It’s designed to celebrate the many women who lead, and the ways that women choose to challenge inequality through their leadership.
In case you weren’t aware, all three of our Cambodian partners are women AND they are all focused on employing disabled artisans and makers. Each small business is unique, and there are differences in the ways they are structured, but the advocacy for their employees is something they all share.
They have not only inspired us, but also have made us more aware of the stigma(s) disabled folks face in Cambodia and here in the US. Their desire is for people to choose to purchase the beautiful products they create, not because they are made by people with a disability, but to appreciate the hard work, passion and creativity of the artisans behind these designs, who also happen to be disabled.
In our partner Thanan’s words, she wants to show that “a life full of purpose, independence and social activity” is possible for all women in Cambodia, including women who happen to have a disability. She says that is her favorite part of what she does, working with other women. And through this work she challenges the status quo and promotes gender equality, while also fostering a true community among the staff.
Last year when Joe Biden gave his victory speech and mentioned the disability community specifically as being worthy of the promises of America, it was seen as a significant milestone. Which says a lot about how far we have to go here in the US in regards to equality for the disabled community. Our Cambodians partners challenge us to do better by the disabled community here in the US, and to really consider the ways that are marginalized and left out of vital conversations.
We’re honored and humbled to work with these women, and to call them friends. We’re here for the challenge and we thank you for being along with us on the journey!