Neakru, an independent woman

Une femme indépendante et généreuse qui a jouait un rôle clef chez Soieries du Mékong

Krong Chantong is a bit like the mother of all the weavers in our Banteay Chmar workshop. Nicknamed “Neakru” by her peers, meaning “teacher” in Khmer, Chantong is a resourceful woman with a keen eye and attentive ear. In the eyes of other artisans, her rigor and gentleness helped shape the image of a very maternal woman aspiring to help others progress without compensation.

Married and mother of two teenage children, Neakru has a busy life. After living all her youth in the village of Phnom Srok, southeast of Banteay Chmar, she moved with her husband to Banteay Chmar, a beautiful village adjoining magnificent temples, heritage of the Khmer empire, today part of UNESCO. The reason for his departure? Teaching women the art of traditional hand weaving.

The story of the link between this woman of character and Soieries du Mékong begins in 2000 in Phnom Sok, in the childhood hamlet of Neakru. At that time, Phnom Srok was a village known for its weavers, differing from many villages whose weaving activity had weakened during the Khmer Rouge period. In 2000, the NGOs Hope in Silk and Children of the Mekong joined forces to set up a silk stole weaving workshop in Banteay Chmar. They then recruit competent women ready to travel to teach traditional silk weaving to women whose desire to be active in improving their living conditions already demonstrates an independent and determined character.

And in the field of weaving, she is one of the best in her village. Neakru has been weaving silk since she was 5 years old. This art of hand weaving was passed on to him, as tradition dictates, by his mother. She became professional in 1998, thanks to training in all the stages of preparing the loom. Thanks to all her accumulated knowledge and experience, she was offered a valuable position as a hand weaving teacher in this new NGO project, Soieries du Mékong, intended to empower women in rural areas.

According to Neakru, the woman must help her family increase their income. Many women go to Thailand in search of an El Dorado or a job that would allow them to be free from want for a while. She therefore wishes to actively fight against this more or less forced migration by continuing to work for a social enterprise which employs women and brings activity back to this small isolated village in the Banteay Meanchey region.   

Today, her skills have enabled her to climb the ranks of the social enterprise and become a technical expert at Soieries du Mékong. She says she likes the warm atmosphere there and the good communication between the artisans and the team that manages production.

His story doesn't end there. True entrepreneurial souls, she and her husband set up a construction company in parallel with her activity, then a cooperative for buying rice and cassava. The reason for such a change in field is not so surprising when we learn that by renting machines to extract the rice husk, the rice becomes edible and marketable at a higher price, and the processed husk becomes a material of construction. Indeed, rice husk is a very good thermal insulator, and can also be used as fertilizer or fuel, enough to diversify Neakru's activities and form a fruitful ecosystem. Her dual activity has become so demanding that she now works part-time in the workshop.

But what is the difference between her business in construction, rice and cassava and her job as a technical expert at Soieries du Mékong? According to her, there aren't that many. His life project consists of developing activities that provide a monthly income to rural villagers looking for work. She likes the Soieries du Mékong project focused on the training and professionalization of women, because she thinks that women have an important role to play in increasing the standard of living of families.

It thus clearly illustrates the words of Ban Ki Moon who explains that “The empowerment of rural women is crucial if we want to put an end to hunger and poverty. By denying women rights and opportunities, we deprive their children and their societies of a better future. »

With her desire to undertake, her patience, her expertise, her determination and her kindness, Neakru has been a key woman at Soieries du Mékong... for twenty years already!Le tissage à la main, gage de qualité et de patience rend nos écharpes uniques

If you would like to know more about the role of women in economic development, we invite you to read the articles from UN Women at the following link:

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