YES! WE CAN! YES! WE CAN! YEEESS! WEEEE CAAANN!! 33 young Cambodian girls screamed these words over and over as a mantra to start a new day at our new “EmDidi” Vocational Training Program, to learn the art of threading and the art of Mehndi, becoming the first generation of trainees to provide both services in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Senhoa and Shinta Mani Foundation interviewed and recruited the girls--young women who have experienced exploitation or are vulnerable to exploitation—to see if they were fit for our new program and to be able to offer them the opportunity to have a safe and secure route to generate income and economic independence.
Ziba Beauty, one of the top academies in the world for threading and Mehndi training (body artistry with Henna), with the energetic impulse and admirable passion of the CEO Sumita Batra and her sister, Suman Patel, came to Cambodia with a team of experts to give the girls the opportunity to be trained to a U.S.-standard of beauty and customer service. The results were marvelous!
Scared and quiet faces were turned into friendly and professional attitudes. The trainers expressed enthusiasm every second, wanting to capture on every scene the hunger to learn from the girls while the trainees were absorbing every step of the courses, learning every level of these unique skills. Of the recruitment process, most of the girls’ thoughts were “It looks so difficult, I’m not going to make it” and “…mmm… I… could… try…”… but what they didn’t realize is that every learning process happens slowly if your heart is in it, step by step. Suddenly, after five hard working days full of laugher, practice, extra courses of make-up, grooming, customer service, etc., they were agile on the techniques with the thread and the henna cones. From their own hands, amazing designs were created, touching other people’s lives. “Yes! We can!” the shouts echoed during our one big group hug on graduation day.
33 girls received not just their training certificates, but also a sister, a family, a support system. “Em” in Vietnamese means “young sister” and “Didi” in Hindi means “older sister.” Every girl chose their Em or their Didi in order to keep practicing, to help each other… to share skills and experience, which later on, they will share, passing down the knowledge to their sisters as Ziba did with them.
To start a new market in a country where these skills are unknown is not a piece of cake. It required a lot of preparation, logistics and understanding of the culture, addressed with loads of courage and passion from the three partners: Senhoa, Shinta Mani Foundation and Ziba Beauty. Mehndi designs were adapted to Khmer culture and a course was taught on the historical background of where these two artisanal skills came from and their meaning. The best part of the whole experience, however, was to encourage the girls to believe that they are able to learn, they are able to do it well and are able to start down a professional path on their own. “Yes! We can!” was shouted with tears in their eyes and a big smile on their faces. “Yes! We can” was a declaration to the world to demonstrate that the art of beauty is not superficial; the art of beauty is a deep understanding of our own roots, how deep they will expand to find the water to keep growing. The art of beauty is embracing ourselves, transcending with long and strong branches. The art of beauty communicates your true soul.
To empower is the big challenge in Cambodia, especially in a conservative culture where a woman has to fight hard for her spot and own voice in her society. Senhoa is working every day to give them a chance to demonstrate how skillful they are and how brave they have become. We have continued to provide technical English courses, social work follow-ups, online trainings with Ziba’s team in California, advertising amongst local hotels and spas on their services and encouraging the daily practice of their skills, as well as acknowledge their inner strength.
We invite you to learn more about Senhoa’s new and exciting adventure and to support our mission to Employ, to Empower and to Emancipate young Cambodian girls in their new paths as entrepreneurs because “YES! WE CAN!”
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