Cambodian Fashion NGOs: are they doing Good?
Journal of Textile Engineering & Fashion Technology
During the Khmer Rouge's genocide in the 1970s, Cambodia's entire infrastructure was destroyed and its ancient textile traditions were nearly eradicated. However, recently Cambodia has emerged as a top garment producer and also made great strides in restoring its world-famous sericulture. Fashion items are produced in large factories, in nongovernmental (NGO) organizations/associations and in private enterprises. While large-scale fashion production is Cambodia's biggest export industry, the
... rt industry, the industry is suffering from ongoing labor strife, low wages and poor work conditions. Another key problem of the industry is that the designs and market for the fashions are exclusively Western. In contrast, NGOs/associations have been championing a progressive social agenda and positively impacted the local civil society. They also laid the foundation for an emerging local fashion scene. NGOs generally recruit their employees from the most disenfranchised segments of the population, such as formerly prostituted women, homeless children and underprivileged youths or unemployed rural people. NGOs help these employees get skills training and cultivate and harness their creativity. However, NGO fashion production also has its downside. These include financial instability, too much focus on donor priorities, massive bureaucracy, and lack of accountability to local workers by foreign donors and passive execution of Western design ideas. At the same time, there are positive examples as well. Successful fashion NGOs not only provide employment, but teach financial, management, design and entrepreneurial skills to their constituents as well. They also promote collective decision making, emphasize local aesthetics and utilize local physical and human resources.